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January 9th, 2012
09:07 pm

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In case anyone is still reading this, I've pretty much abandoned this journal, with the bulk of its duties now being taken over by Facebook and my new movie blog, which you can find here:

http://blurtforreel.blogspot.com/

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June 26th, 2011
12:57 pm

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Grey's Anatomy

Life is weird and complicated and scary and amazing, and Grey's Anatomy gets that better than anything. Every episode has its own theme, and each one is like a self-help book, but taken together it's like an epic 100+-hour movie that's better than any therapy you can ever get. I don't know what it's like to watch it over the course of years, but watching it all at once is turning me into an emotional mess and I love it.

 

Except whenever the Private Practice cast shows up, because I can't stand any of them and that show is the worst thing on TV. Can't believe it's the same creator.

 

I've also learned from the show that there are three rules that everyone in a hospital follows when speaking to each other:

1. Divulge your most private thoughts and feelings to whomever happens to be standing near you, regardless of how well you know them.

2. Everything is a metaphor.  When you talk about a patient, you're really talking about yourself, or someone else.

3. Never be happy about anything that anyone has to say to you, ever.

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May 4th, 2011
10:46 pm

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The Summer of Robert
Remember last spring when I bemoaned about how depressingly lame the summer movie season looked?  Well, this summer is the exact opposite of that.  On paper, it's just ridiculously awesome.

Okay, first of all, I just now discovered that Miranda July has a new movie coming out, finally.  And it's about a cat who somehow alters the space-time continuum.  Ummmm... Miranda?  Marry me.  Seriously.  I know I'm already married, but we can move to Utah or something.

But first, there's The Tree of Life, which has maybe the most amazing trailer I've ever seen.

Then of course there's the Harry Potter grand finale.  Which, if they do it right, should be one of my favorite movies ever.  And which comes out on the same day as Winnie the Pooh, which also looks awesome, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which is based on a book that I loved.

And we mustn't forget the three, count them, three Marvel superhero movies, plus Green fucking Lantern, one of my favorite superheroes.

Then, at some unspecified time, the new Lars Von Trier movie is coming out.

As if all this weren't enough, there's a new Woody Allen movie (not that that's a rare occurrence, or, based on recent history, necessarily one for celebration).  And Cowboys and Aliens.  And Crazy, Stupid Love, which also has a great trailer, and a great cast.  And Another Earth, which I don't know much about but which sounds really cool.  Oh, and Friends With Benefits, which looks stupid and I probably won't see it, except it has Justin Timberlake having repeated sex with Mila Kunis, so it's pretty much the greatest straight porn ever, so I might see it anyway if I'm horny enough.

It's too bad I don't give a shit about Pirates of the Caribbean or Transformers or The Hangover or Planet of the Apes, or this summer would really blow my mind.

Seriously, was this summer movie season designed specifically for me?  Because I'm flattered and touched, really.

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April 27th, 2011
07:11 pm

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Phonebook
When I was in kindergarten, our teacher, Mrs. Landreth, created a class phonebook for us.  It listed every kid in the class along with their phone numbers, and every kid got a copy.  Well, this was very exciting.  Now, we could call each other!  The room erupted with the sounds of "I'll call you!" and "No, I'll call you!"  Everybody was making plans to call someone else, or perhaps several someones.  Nobody offered to call me, though, so, feeling left out, I desperately turned to the only other kid who hadn't been offered a phone call, which was Jimmy, a kid that nobody liked because he was stupid, and offered to call him.  Somehow, the fact that we hitherto could have simply asked each other for our phone numbers never occurred to us.

Well, naturally, when I got home, calling Jimmy was the last thing on my mind.  So when he inevitably called me to remind me that I had told him I'd call him, all I could say was, "Well, I didn't mean it" (give me a break, I was six).

This is what Facebook is.  Facebook is my kindergarten phone book.  But instead of a book, it's a web site.  And instead of a kindergarten class, it's everyone you've ever met in your entire life.  And instead of Jimmy, it's some random person you went to high school with.

Or, actually, it could be Jimmy.  I'm sure he would have shown up on my Facebook eventually if I hadn't bailed, even though I haven't seen him in 30 years.

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April 15th, 2011
06:07 pm

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My New York Trip
I just spent a week in New York, thanks to my generous mother, who paid for everything.  We saw six Broadway shows in five days, which I thought would be exhausting, but it wasn't.  In fact, being in a Broadway theater in New York is so much better than being in New York and not being in a Broadway theater.  I still have a love-hate relationship with the city, but at least I confirmed for myself that I wouldn't want to live there again.

Here's what I saw:

American Idiot
"For this performance of American Idiot, the role of St. Jimmy will be played by Billie Joe Armstrong."  We all knew beforehand, of course, but still, the excitement this announcement generated in the audience was palpable and thrilling.  Probably the only time in my life that I'll be able to hear those words (unless he decides to play it when it comes to L.A. next year), so I'm glad I got the chance.

The show had flaws, sure: the lead actor kind of sucked at acting and singing (and he made the character really unlikeable... I'm not sure if that's just him or if the original actor played it the same way), as did the girl who played Heather; the dialogue (what little there is) is too on-the-nose and lame; the dancing is weak and some of the choreography is just plain odd; the plot is minimal and familiar (essentially a mishmash of Rent, Fight Club, and Across the Universe)... but it's also achingly wonderful and quite possibly my favorite show ever.  The music, the lyrics, the set design, the staging, Billie Joe fucking Armstrong, Rebecca Naomi Jones as Whatsername (the sole remaining original cast member), even an almost unrecognizable Justin Guarini, were all incredible.  "21 Guns" is agonizingly magnificent.  It's the kind of decade-defining musical that Hair and Rent were (but then, so is Avenue Q).  It's closing this month, which is a shame (and yet Rock of Ages is still going strong... yeah, it's a fun show, but it's not that great).

I want to have sex with Billie Joe Armstrong.  He's bisexual, so it could happen.  But he's also married, so probably not.

Speaking of Avenue Q, I saw it last month, and believe it to be one of the most important works of art of the 21st Century.  I think the rest of the audience felt the same; you could just feel it, this energy in the crowd that bespoke of a shared understanding that we were experiencing something that just Gets It.

Billy Elliot
It occurs to me that Billy Elliot and American Idiot have a lot in common.  They're both flagrantly anti-conservative diatribes (George Bush, Margaret Thatcher, what's the difference?), and the CD covers for their respective soundtrack albums are nearly identical (both have black and red lettering on a white background).  And they're both wonderful.  Yeah, this one also has its share of flaws, most notably Lee Hall's lyrics, which are poorly written for the most part (I didn't realize until later that he's the guy who wrote the screenplay for the movie... why would they get a screenwriter to write a musical?).  And there's a lot of that "Oh, these children are so adorable and precocious, what will they say next?!" brand of comedy, which frequently nauseated me (of course the audience ate it up).  But it's also just damn incredible musical theater.  Somewhere in the middle of "Solidarity," I just burst into tears, and didn't fully recover until the intermission.  The second act, unfortunately, is a bit weak -- it just seems content to follow the movie and have someone sing a song now and then -- and there's no ending (for some reason they cut out the ending of the movie), but the first act is an artistic and technical triumph.

The Phantom of the Opera

Well, that was 150 ass-numbing minutes I'll never get back.  I don't get the point of this show.  At all.  I certainly don't get why it's the most financially successful work of entertainment in the history of the world.  It's a musical about a neurotic egomaniac who is also a stalker, a murderer, and a kidnapper.  How appropriate that it features an opera called "Hannibal."  Set it in the present and it would be The Silence of the Lambs: The Musical.  But what is it actually about?  Yeah, yeah, the Music of the Night, blah, blah, blah.  Fuck you. 

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Now this is more like it: a thoroughly unpretentious musical that just wants to show you a good time.  The movie is one of the most thoroughly entertaining musicals I've ever seen, and this stage version is even better.  Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette, sadly, just seemed out of place in the midst of their colossally talented supporting cast (including Mary Faber, the original Heather from American Idiot... damn, I wish she hadn't left that show).  The matching set and costume designs were excellent, as well, giving the show an extra bit of subtle satire.

Memphis

On a technical level, this is probably the "best" show I saw.  The acting, the singing, the costumes, the extremely complex and intricate set design... all amazing.  In fact, there really were no flaws.  So why didn't I love it quite as much as American Idiot or Billy Elliot, which are assuredly more imperfect?  Maybe it's because, although the musical numbers were invariably spectacular, the actual songs aren't to my taste (it's all '50s R&B music), and the story didn't resonate with me as much as the other two.  It also seemed a bit long and repetitive.  Once again, the first act made me cry, but the second act didn't seem to be going anywhere much of the time.  Still, it's a phenomenal show that everyone should see.

The Book of Mormon
Ugh, that's the last time I listen to the critics.  The Book of Mormon is exactly what I thought it would be before I read the reviews and was duped into thinking it was something else.  I disliked it for the same reasons I dislike everything by Trey Parker and Matt Stone: the jokes are all really obvious and peppered with geeky pop culture references and unimaginative obscenities under the mistaken belief that geeky pop culture references and unimaginative obscenities are the same as actual jokes, with automatic laughs that come with it; it mistakes schoolyard teasing for social satire; and it's all tidily wrapped up in a preachy speech that summarizes the Message for us.  Oh, and there's a scene with Satan thrown in, of course.  Bleh.  There were a couple of good musical numbers in the beginning, but mostly it's just dumb and not very funny.  I was hoping the Avenue Q guy would inject some intelligence and humor into it, but his hand is almost invisible in the final work. 

The best meal I ate in New York was a $4.50 hamburger from the Shake Shack (which is opening a branch in Kuwait City, but the western U.S. is not so lucky).  The worst meal I had was a piece of fish, some crab, and a tablespoon-sized dessert from Le Bernardin (New York's "finest restaurant," and one of only five to get the coveted three stars from Michelin), which cost $70, plus tax and tip, and which actually made me physically ill.  Fuck you, New York.

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January 25th, 2011
02:47 pm

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If I Picked the Oscars
Best Picture - True Grit
Give me a moment, I'm not used to my favorite movie of the year getting a Best Picture Oscar nomination.  This hasn't happened since 1998, with Saving Private Ryan (and my favorite film of the year hasn't won since Amadeus, way back in 1984).  This is the strongest this category has been in a very long time.  They actually got it right this year, picking what are more or less the ten most critically acclaimed movies of the year (other than Carlos, which I don't think was eligible).  Of course, they've still got some overrated movies in the mix.  The overwhelming acclaim for The King's Speech is utterly bizarre to me.  The movie could not be more generic.  It's The Madness of King George with stuttering instead of madness.  I've read comparisons to The Karate Kid, but the only way that analogy would make sense is if Daniel-san's goal was not to win the tournament, but simply to show up and not make a complete fool of himself.  It wouldn't be much of a movie, and neither is The King's Speech.  Likewise, I'm not sure what everyone sees in Winter's Bone.  It's kind of a nothing little movie.  And Inception, though ridiculously entertaining, was just way too contrived and schematic.  But 127 Hours and Toy Story 3 are both awesome, and Black Swan, The Fighter, The Social Network, and (to a lesser extent) The Kids Are All Right are all good, solid, expertly made films.

Best Actor - Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Bridges vs. Firth again, for the second year in a row?  Incidentally, I gave my vote to Firth last year, but that was because I hadn't yet seen Crazy Heart.  Having seen it since, I now think Bridges absolutely deserved to win.  And he deserves to win again.

Best Actress - Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
I'm tempted to go with Natalie Portman, who would definitely win Most Improved (this was an odd year, acting-wise: it was the year that Spider-Man's best friend and Luke Skywalker's mom both revealed that, wonder of wonders, they actually can act!).  But I gotta go with my girl Michelle.  Annette Bening was fine, but I thought Julianne Moore was better.  Nicole Kidman was excellent (though Dianne Wiest was better), but I just can't get past Winter Bone's essential emptiness enough to judge Jennifer Lawrence's performance objectively.  I... guess she was fine.

Best Supporting Actor - Jeremy Renner, The Town
Christian Bale's going to win, but other than losing a lot of weight and adopting a Boston accent, what exactly does he do?  If he were an unknown, there's no way he would have even been nominated.  The Academy apparently loves Boston accents, though: 40% of the performances in this year's supporting categories have them (see also Mark Wahlberg in The Departed and Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone).  It's not hard to see why, though.  Jeremy Renner is amazing in his Boston-accented role, and even Ben Affleck was excellent in the same movie.

Best Supporting Actress - Amy Adams, The Fighter
Okay, maybe I'm a sucker for a Boston accent, too.  But she's transformative in this movie, in a way that doesn't just rely on the accent.  I also thought Jacki Weaver was excellent in Animal Kingdom, though I didn't much like the movie.  I saw it before I saw The Fighter, which might be part of the reason why I was unimpressed with the usually impressive Melissa Leo, as the roles are basically the same.  Weaver's character is just a more evil version of Leo's character, and she nailed it far more effectively than did Leo.

Time for a quick rant.  Nominating Hailee Steinfeld in the supporting category is just absurd.  Her character is in every scene.  She's rarely off-camera.  The movie is about her.  The other actors are there to support her.  Honestly, it's no exaggeration to say that nominating her for Best Supporting Actress is like nominating Daniel Radcliffe for Best Supporting Actor for the Harry Potter movies.  It's part age discrimination and part sex discrimination, but mostly I think it's fame and billing discrimination.  If Dakota Fanning had the role, is there any doubt she'd be considered for the lead category?

Okay, rant's over.  Now I'd like to take a moment to remark on the remarkable similarities between Amys Adams and Ryan.  They're both named Amy, and both have a man's name as a last name (okay, Adams has the extra "S").  They were both on The Office, playing the girlfriends of the two main male characters, respectively.  And they're both amazingly versatile actresses who have both been nominated for Best Supporting Actress for playing working-class Bostonians.  Has anyone seen them in the same room together?  Not that they look anything alike, but I wouldn't discount Master of Disguise from their list of possible talents.

Best Director - Coen Brothers, True Grit
Tom Hooper - the new Stephen Daldry.

Best Original Screenplay - The Fighter
Even though it eventually degenerates into a standard underdog sports drama, it's terrific writing, with some of the year's best dialogue.  Inception: Most Expository Screenplay.

I just realized that the screenplay nominees are identical to the Best Picture nominees, with one exception: Another Year instead of Black Swan.  Does Mike Leigh have to get a screenplay nomination every single time he makes a movie (which is especially odd considering his screenplays always come about through improvisations with his actors, who therefore have just as much input into the screenplays as he does, if not more)?  Why would they nominate his worst movie ever, rather than Darren Aronofsky's best movie ever?

Best Adapted Screenplay - True Grit
Yay!

Best Animated Film - Toy Story 3
Sorry, Sylvain.  As much as I Ioved The Triplets of Belleville, The Illusionist bored the hell out of me.  And you just know he and the How to Train Your Dragon guys are sitting there thinking, "Should I even bother showing up?"  Really, what's the point of even having this category when one of the nominees has a freakin' Best Picture nomination?!  Now that there are 10 Best Picture nominees, and animated films thus have a better shot at the crown, can't we just get rid of this award?

Best Foreign Language Film - Dogtooth
I wasn't that crazy about it, but it's the only one I've seen.  And frankly, I'm just so shocked it was nominated that I'd love for it to win.  I'm bummed that Confessions didn't make it, though.  Two ultra-black comedies competing for an Oscar would have been something to see.  I'm actually kind of confused about why the notoriously conservative Academy would pick Dogtooth, but not Confessions.  They're both violent and disturbing, but the latter is the more mature and insightful film.  I loved individual scenes in Dogtooth, but as a whole I found it shapeless and a bit childish.  Biutiful will probably win, though I'm on the fence over whether or not I even want to see it.

Best Cinematography - True Grit
Yay!

Best Editing - The Fighter
Actually, they're all good choices (except The King's Speech).  The Fighter struck me as the most singular.

Best Art Direction - True Grit
Yay!

Best Costumes - True Grit
Yay!  Okay, now I'm just being ridiculous.

Best Makeup - pass
Haven't seen any of them.  I might see The Way Back.  Haven't decided yet.

Best Score - How to Train Your Dragon
I guess.  Once again I'm having trouble remembering them.

Best Song - "I See the Light," Tangled
I guess.  It was actually my least favorite song in the movie (surely "Mother Knows Best" should have been nominated), but I'll be damned if I'd vote for Randy Newman, Dido, or Country Strong.

Great, now she's going to be "Academy Award Nominee Dido."

Best Sound Mixing - True Grit
Yay!

Best Sound Editing - True Grit
Yay!

Best Visual Effects - Iron Man 2

Best Documentary - Exit Through the Gift Shop
Naturally.  "Academy Award Winner Banksy" just has to happen.  Inside Job and Restrepo kind of bored me.  Haven't seen the other two.

Best Animated Short - Night and Day
I saw it twice.  The first time was in 2D, and it just seemed like an exercise to me.  The second time was in 3D, and this time I appreciated it more.  Of course, it's the only nominee I've seen.

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January 16th, 2011
02:33 pm

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Bullshit
There are some commonly used quotes that people need to just stop using.  I'm not talking about movie lines that everybody quotes because they think they're funny or cool.  I'm talking about quotations that didn't make much sense to begin with and are so over-used that they have become irritating cliches, and any relevance they might have had has been lost.  So everyone, please stop repeating the following:

"You can't shout 'fire' in a crowded theater."
Okay, first of all, the quote is "falsely shout 'fire'."  I know that's basically a given, but people sound stupid when they omit that word, so I don't understand why everybody does.  And secondly, yes, you actually can yell "fire" in a crowded theater.  The quote is usually used to refute an argument concerning the First Amendment.  But it's a bad argument, because shouting "fire" in a crowded theater is protected by the First Amendment, according to Brandenburg vs. Ohio, which determined that only language intentionally meant to incite imminent lawless action is not protected by the First Amendment.  So, yeah, fuck you, Mr. First Amendment Violation Apologist.

"Nature abhors a vacuum."
Well, no.  Nature is not sentient, and is therefore not capable of abhorring anything.  But even if it were, vacuums are clearly not something it would abhor.  Vacuums exist in nature.  The universe is in fact one giant vacuum with a little bit of matter floating around.  I think this quote is attributed to Aristotle.  Are we really taking science lessons from a guy who lived over 2000 years ago?

"In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes."
This one's just stupid.  It's clearly not true, as the world is filled with people who will never, ever be famous, and no one is ever famous for a mere 15 minutes.  That's not even possible.  The world would have to learn about this person and then promptly forget about them all within a 15-minute interval.  Yeah, yeah, it's not meant to be taken literally, but even taken figuratively, it's meaningless and useless, and just plain dumb.  Isn't it time we stopped pretending that Andy Warhol was in any way profound or wise?

"When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back."

What does this even mean?  I mean, I know what people think it means, and I think I know what Nietzsche thought he meant.  But it doesn't actually mean any of that.  It doesn't really mean anything.  But it sounds cool, so people still use it.

I think there are others, and in fact I think I'm forgetting the one that  prompted me to write this post in the first place, but I can't remember.

But on a related note, here's something else that annoys me: song lyrics that make no sense.  I don't mean esoteric lyrics that not everyone gets, I mean lyrics that are quite simply nonsense.  There are three in particular that bug me:

"I'm finding it hard to believe we're in heaven." - Bryan Adams, "Heaven"
I may have written about this one before, because it's been bothering me for a long time.  I like Bryan Adams ("Summer of '69" is one of the best rock songs ever), but he screwed up here.  The only way this line makes any sense is if he's singing about a couple who died and literally went to heaven, but heaven is really boring and crappy, so he's having a tough time believing that it's really heaven.  But I don't think that's what he meant.

"Too Much Time on My Hands" by Styx
I also like Styx, but pretty much this entire song is written incorrectly.  The song's about some loser who does nothing but sit around and drink and watch soap operas and so forth.  Then each verse ends with, "Is it any wonder I'm not crazy?  Is it any wonder I'm sane at all?" or a variation on that ("Is it any wonder I'm not a criminal," etc).  But, well... yes, it is a wonder.  What he meant to say was, "Is it any wonder I am crazy/a criminal, etc.?"  Either that, or, "It's a wonder I'm not crazy."  But asking it in the form of a question like that implies that the evidence supports a negative answer to the question.  But it doesn't, it contradicts it.  Unless that's the point, that he's so drunk and crazy that he doesn't realize he's misusing the expression.  Curiously, though, he gets it right for the chorus: "Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"  No, it's not a wonder, and that's the point!

"No one ever died for my sins in hell." - Green Day, "Jesus of Surbubia"
Green Day is my favorite band, and "Jesus of Suburbia" is probably my favorite song by them.  But one thing Billie Joe Armstrong is not is a great lyricist.  What does that line mean?  Does it mean no one died in hell, which isn't possible because if they're in hell they're presumably already dead?  Or is it the sins that are in hell?  I guess it means that no one ever died for the acts he committed which the denizens of hell would consider to be sinful, but it seems like a bit of a reach just to create a rhyme with "as far as I can tell."

I think Penn Jillette should be President.  And Teller Vice-President.  And I'm totally serious.  And this is coming from someone who's becoming more and more of a socialist, and they're Libertarians, which is basically the opposite of a socialist, and I'd still vote for them in a heartbeat.  I like how Bullshit exists just to point out everything that's wrong with society.

Except for smoking being banned in restaurants.  I think they were wrong about that.  The smoking ban is a good thing.  It actually seems strange to me to remember restaurants having smoking sections (and even stranger to remember airplanes having smoking sections!).  Why not have a masturbating section, too?  Or a defecating section?  Or a stomping on rodents with high heels section?  These, to me, are just as weird and arbitrary as going to a restaurant and lighting tobacco on fire.

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January 2nd, 2011
05:51 pm

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10 Best Movies of 2010
10. Last Train Home
At first, I resisted this documentary and its apparent intent to edify for us just how good we've got it by depicting the plight of a pair of migrant Chinese factory workers who can only afford to go home to see their children once a year.  But once I started viewing the film as simply an anthropological remake of March of the Penguins, I quickly grew fascinated by it.  Because really, that's all it is.  It may focus on this one particular couple, but it's really about the mass migration of 130 million Chinese workers, who all go home every year at the same time, at New Year (Chinese New Year, obviously).  Exactly why this is so is never made entirely clear, but I like the ambiguity.  It gives it that National Geographic flavor, as though, as with the penguins, we are merely observing the arcane and archaic results of animal instincts asserting themselves (they really should have called the film "March of the Humans").  But even on a personal, human level, the story is fascinating, as we follow this couple and their desperate efforts to return home in time for New Year (and I mean desperate, as though the world would end if they didn't make it in time) so they can see their teenage children who barely even know them at all and clearly couldn't care less.  Granted, there are a few scenes that bear little appreciable difference to something you'd see on reality TV, but on the other hand, reality TV never gets this disturbingly allegorical.

9. Catfish
I'm not sure why I embraced this documentary as fully as I did, when I dismissed Easier With Practice, which came out earlier in the year and told essentially the same story (albeit dramatized, but allegedly based on a true story), as being trivial and anecdotal and pointless.  It's not as if the circumstances and events it records are unique or novel (The Night Listener also told a similar story, not to mention an experience I had in my own life that was also very similar).  In fact, they probably happen all the time.  Nonetheless, this film, told almost entirely in the present tense, is absolutely gripping, even as it becomes (indeed, especially when it becomes) clear exactly where it's heading.  It unfolds almost like a suspense thriller (and in fact it was advertised as one, which probably pissed off a lot of audience members who thought they were coming to see the next Blair Witch Project), which, now that I think about it, is the reason it works where Easier With Practice fails.  That, and the resolution.  Once we discover the real subject of this film, it soon becomes clear that the filmmakers hit the documentary jackpot.  I have to be vague here to avoid spoilers, but as a "character" study, this documentary outdoes just about every fictional film of last year.

[There was actually some controversy surrounding this film and whether it is in fact a documentary or a work of fiction, but I see no evidence to suggest that it's fake.  And in any case, it doesn't matter.  The movie works either way, as fact or fiction.]

8. Exit Through the Gift Shop
Yet another documentary (three on one "top 10" list is definitely a record for me, which I guess indicates what a poor year it was for fiction films), and my favorite one of the year (it's also got the year's best title, of any movie).  Like Catfish, this one isn't about what it initially appears to be about, and, also like Catfish, its authenticity has been the subject of debate.  That is, no one is doubting that the events it depicts actually occurred, but there is some question as to whether these events were in fact set up far in advance by the filmmaker as part of an elaborate hoax.  But despite what you might be thinking, this unreliability does not discredit the quality or even the integrity of the film in the slightest.  On the contrary, it only adds an extra layer of insight, as it serves as a meta-textual commentary on the nature and significance of art, which is the film's actual subject.  Just watch the movie, and you'll see what I mean.

7. Youth in Revolt
Finally, a smart teenage sex comedy.  Youth in Revolt plays like American Pie, if American Pie were populated by absurdly intelligent teenagers from an absurdly cinematic parallel universe.  The tone of this movie is truly bizarre, and quite unlike anything else I've ever seen.  Completely removed from reality -- even more so than Juno or even Heathers -- yet falling short of broad farce or parody, the film maintains a delicate, dispassionate balance, an almost Zen-like approach to comedy that belies its title.  Characters speak colorful dialogue with such aloofness that any sense of self-consciousness is eliminated (which is why comparisons to Juno are not apt).  To contrast it with last year's other absurdist Michael Cera romantic comedy, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: the characters in that movie spoke as if they knew they were in a movie; the characters in Youth in Revolt speak as if they may or may not be in a movie and don't give a damn either way.  The results are delightfully droll.  It also occurs to me that it's the antithesis of Easy A, which also came out last year: Youth is about a virginal teenager who pretends to be someone he's not in order to get laid; Easy A is about a virginal teenager who pretends to get laid in order to become someone she's not.  And, oh, yeah, Youth is smart and witty, and Easy A is completely retarded.

6. How to Train Your Dragon
I really didn't want to see this movie.  DreamWorks Animation and I have never been simpatico (aside from Antz,which they made way back in 1998... and the Nick Park movies, I guess, which don't really count), and the lame trailer didn't give me any reason to believe that this had changed.  But the virtually universal praise from the critics got my attention, so I decided to give it a shot.  And at first, all of my fears seemed to be confirmed, as the movie began with the usual dumb, pandering comedic dialogue that so often punctuates these sorts of films.  But it got over that fairly quickly, and the rest of the movie was just pure, wondrous joy.  The animation is simply gorgeous, and it's used to tell a sweet, simple, exciting story about prejudice and friendship.  It's also got the most effective use of 3D I've ever seen.  It actually seems to use 3D as an artistic tool, rather than simply as mere spectacle.  There were moments when I almost forgot I was watching a movie, and not some trippy, expressionistic puppet show.  And the flying sequences are more stunning, more breathtaking, and more real than anything found in Avatar.

5. 127 Hours
Oh, so Danny Boyle can make a good movie.  I was beginning to wonder.  I guess this was the year of making amends with my cinematic nemeses.  On paper, 127 Hours seems like an odd fit for Boyle's hyper-kinetic directing style -- it's a movie about someone who literally cannot go anywhere, after all -- but what he does here is employ that style in the service of representing the protagonist's mental state.  The result is an eerily subjective film, one that gets inside the character's head better than just about any movie I've ever seen that doesn't rely on first-person narration, and the best thing Boyle has ever made, by far.  It also happens to be incredibly moving.  It turns out that it's a movie about community, and communion, and the ways in which social independence is mythical at best and dangerous at worst.  When James Franco (who's surprisingly excellent, by the way), yells, "I need help!" at the film's climax, I admit it: I burst into tears.  In fact, the final 20 minutes or so are heart-stoppingly beautiful.  Only in a movie like this could a grisly self-amputation be a cathartic release (literally and figuratively) rather than an act of horror.

4. Toy Story 3
Here's another first for me: a Pixar movie actually making my "top 10" list.  What can I say?  This is the first time Pixar has stepped up and actually achieved, in my eyes, what everyone has been claiming they've been doing for years.  For one thing, they're working with the best script they've had since... well, since Toy Story 2 (amazingly, it's by the Little Miss Sunshine guy.  What is going on here?!).  No silly plot contrivances or half-baked attempts at satire, just a focused and logical yet inventive narrative that has the weight and confidence of an epic adventure but the whimsy and levity of a classic comedy.  The animation is stunning, in a way that exploits the advantages of the CG medium rather than trying to emulate live action.  It's the best computer animated feature yet made, and between it and How to Train Your Dragon, it appears as though the medium might finally be growing past its infancy and the puerile comedies to which it hitherto has been short-sightedly confined.

3. Shutter Island
What was advertised as a psychological horror movie turned out, unexpectedly, to be a glorious paean to classic Hitchcockian filmmaking.  I mistook it for a masterpiece on first viewing, only because, for some reason, I read too much ambiguity into the ending.  Seeing the film again, however, I realized that there is no ambiguity, that what appears to be happening is exactly what is happening, so the film dropped a little in my estimation.  Still, this is Martin Scorsese's best movie in years, a deliriously entertaining, often jaw-droppingly beautiful, edge-of-your-seat suspenseful, inexpressibly sad, and occasionally (though not ultimately) thought-provoking love letter to old-fashioned Hollywood filmmaking.  And Ben Kingsley is never not awesome.

2. Blue Valentine
I kind of want to kiss Derek Cianfrance  Here's this guy who comes out of nowhere, writes this simple little script, attracts possibly the two best young actors working in motion pictures today, and makes a brilliant movie that puts most veterans to shame (not that he's completely inexperienced, but he's made mostly TV documentaries until now).  On paper it sounds like... nothing, really: a marriage falls apart as the couple flashes back to happier times when they first met.  And yet every moment is perfectly calculated, perfectly precise.  Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are astonishing here (Williams was also in Shutter Island, incidentally, and it occurs to me only now how many of my favorite recent movies she's been in; she's just.... I think I'm in love with her), pulling up raw, fearless performances from somewhere that only actors of this caliber can even fathom, probably.  Through impeccable cinematography and art direction, they are placed in a world in which their characters are constantly at odds with, and often subsumed by, their environment.  It's a claustrophobic, almost suffocating film that has nothing particularly new or revelatory to say, but says what it does have to say with uncanny insight and mastery of the filmic language.

1. True Grit
Hallelujah, the Coen Brothers are back!  Not that they ever actually left (they come out with a new movie every year, it seems), but I haven't been terribly thrilled by their output in quite some time.  They always seem to be trying too hard, or too little, and the results invariably seem trite and/or pretentious to me.  But with True Grit, they've made their best movie since Barton Fink, made way back in 1991, and the best western made since Once Upon a Time in the West.  The trailer did everything it could to make the movie look like some tedious exercise in badassery that only a teenage boy could love, but the actual movie is quieter and more thoughtful than that.  It's a movie about transactions, about balance, about action and reaction.  Human lives are just capital in this world, traded and bargained for like any other currency.  Even the dialogue is exchanged like currency.  I'm pretty sure no one, not even in the 1800s, has ever talked the way these characters talk.  The English language decants from these characters' mouths like a fine wine in a kind of affectionate mockery of traditional western-ese.  It also helps to evoke the almost surreal tone that the Coens establish.  Indeed, the movie often resembles a western that David Lynch might make should he ever deign to dabble in that genre, with characters speaking in stylized portents and eccentric non-sequiturs.  The performances are excellent across the board (though Hailee Steinfeld, the teenage lead actress, has a couple of awkward line deliveries that made me cringe; but she is otherwise impressive), and Jeff Bridges deserves his second Oscar in a row, I dare say.  And wih Roger Deakins's magnificent cinematography and Carter Burwell's wonderfully playful musical score, I kind of think this movie should sweep the Oscars (of course it won't, but whatever).  Of course, all of this is meaningless without the writing.  The Coens have always been great directors, it's their scripts that have been weak; but this is the tightest screenplay they've written in years.  There's nothing extraneous or injudicious here, no misguided, hand-waving assertions of Meaning.  The meaning is embedded in the text, and it is this: that, the Rolling Stones be damned, you can always get what you want... but it's going to cost you.

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November 12th, 2010
12:35 pm

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Scott Free
People keep saying that The Office should end when Steve Carell leaves.  Nonsense.  Personally, I can't wait for him to leave.  Oh, sure, a few years ago I would have thought they'd be crazy to have a Michael-less Office.  But if there's one thing that the past few seasons (especially the current one) have demonstrated, it's this: they don't need him.  In fact, they'd be much better off without him.  The entire cast has grown so much as characters (not to mention numerically), that they've outgrown Michael Scott.  Sure, Carell is still good at what he does, but at this point the character is just holding everyone else back.  Michael Scott is done.  He's a joke that's been killed from overexposure.  There's just nowhere else for him to go.  He's exactly the same as he was when the show began, and he'll always be exactly the same.  All he's doing now is getting in the way of the best ensemble cast on television, comedic actors who are brilliant at what they do and make it look effortless (especially compared to, say, Community, which I watched last night for the first time since the pilot, and which has a group of comedic actors who clearly strive mightily, and yet still aren't funny).

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November 8th, 2010
09:40 pm

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AFI Fest Report
This year's AFI Fest was better than last year, as they seemed to be more selective in their selection process, and they grouped the screenings closer together, so I didn't have any long waits between films like I did last year.  On the other hand, I only really liked one movie I saw, just like last year (and, just like last year, the one movie I liked was a Korean film).

Hahaha (Hong Sang-Soo)
This was the one I liked.  It was only my second Hong film, though he's made quite a few of them, all of which, reportedly, are essentially the same movie made over and over again.  Quite why he's so esteemed remains a mystery to me, as he apparently only makes indie-style romantic comedies about jerks and the girls who love them.  This one was funnier than I expected (though, with that title, it would be a bit embarrassing if the movie weren't funny), and had some truly charming performances, which detracted from the utter implausibility of the story.  Way too heavy on the zoom lens, though.

I waited in line for this movie behind a geek couple in matching clothes.  Both guy and girl were wearing T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, brightly colored Converse high-tops, and hipster geek glasses.  Couples who dress the same should be pilloried and publicly humiliated.

Oki's Movie (Hong Sang-Soo)
Yes, he had two movies at the festival, so they formed a double feature of sorts (they called it a double feature, but we still had to leave the theater and then come back in with a separate ticket, so it wasn't a double feature at all).  I didn't like this one nearly as much, though.  It was half an hour shorter than Hahaha but felt twice as long.  And yes, more zoom lens.  Anybody who isn't Stanley Kubrick or Sergio Leone would best be served by avoiding the zoom lens altogether.  This isn't the fucking '70s.

I made the mistake of staying for the Q&A.  When will I learn?  The audience asks nothing but painfully inane questions, and the filmmaker never has anything interesting to say.  This is especially true of Hong, who answered every question in monosyllabic grunts and "I don't know"s.  I'd normally give him a pass considering he is not a native English speaker, but I got the impression he would be responding the same way even if the Q&A had been conducted in Korean.  Why do people speak of this man as though he were an auteur on the level of Fellini or Godard?  He's clearly not a guy who's even interested in creating Art.

Shit Year (Cam Archer)
I had a 45-minute wait between the last movie and this one, so I was just going to stand in line, but to my astonishment they were already letting people into the theater, so I got a great seat.  I was also surprised to see how large the theater was, considering how low-profile this film and director were (AFI seems to dole out the auditorium assignments at random, completely regardless of how many people actually want to see the movie... I learned this last year when the enormous Chinese Theater was used to screen the most obscure and unpopular films).

I should stop and mention here that Mike D'Angelo, the film critic I've been following for over a decade (and who is really the only critic I give a damn about anymore, now that Ebert has become a total douche and most other critics are either clueless or pretentious, or both), was, according to his Twitter, planning to attend the festival that day, and I figured he would be seeing this movie because, of the four films playing in this time slot, two of them were films he'd already seen and reviewed at Cannes, and the third film was about a little boy named Boy who does Michael Jackson impressions (the title of the film?  Boy), so he had just had to be seeing Shit Year.  So I was kind of watching out for him, just because I was curious what he was like in person after reading his stuff for so long.

Anyway, since the theater was almost empty, I felt it was safe to leave my seat to go buy a hot dog.  I walked down the hallway to the lobby, and just as I got to the door, Mike D'Angelo entered.  I looked at him, he looked at me, I kept walking to the concessions stand, was told there would be a 5-10 minute wait for the hot dogs, didn't feel like waiting and thus risk losing my seat, and so returned to the theater to dine on the Cliff Bar I'd brought with me.

Amazingly, in the still nearly empty theater, my seat had been taken in the 30 seconds I'd been gone.  And by a cute guy, no less, who was already in a deep discussion with the guy sitting in front of him (who of course had previously been sitting in front of me).  I sat in the row behind Cute Guy, two rows behind Mike D'Angelo, and couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if I had never left.  Would I now be the one talking to the guy in front of Cute Guy, or even to Cute Guy himself?  They clearly didn't know each other, and Guy in Front of Cute Guy was the more talkative of the two so I have to assume he was the instigator of the conversation.  Did Guy in Front of Cute Guy start talking to Cute Guy because he was a cute guy, or simply because he was close at hand?  Actually, it occurs to me only now that they probably met in a previous screening earlier in the day, and that's why they started up a conversation so quickly.  I also overheard an exchange between Mike D'Angelo and an older man who asked him to explain the movie they had just seen, and Mike D'Angelo was just as cool and interesting in person as he is in print, so that answered my question.  Guy in Front of Cute Guy, meanwhile, had moved back a row to sit next to Cute Guy, but with a heterosexually friendly buffer seat in between them.

Then Cute Guy's friends showed up, and I have to assume that they were either a gay couple or members of the same club or cult, because they looked almost identical.  They were both chubby guys with shaved heads, beards, geek glasses, and hoop earrings.  One of them had a brown beard and the other had a red one, and one was much taller than the other, but otherwise they were identical, so of course I'm sitting there thinking, "What's the story with these guys, and do they actually think that's a good look for them?"  The taller of the two (the one with the brown beard) sat directly in front of me.  And by "taller of the two," I mean tall.  Which normally wouldn't be a problem in a stadium-seating theater, except I was kind of high up and the screen was kind of low, and, unlike his friend/lover/cult brother, he was by no means a sloucher.  Worse, he was the kind of person I dread sitting near in a movie theater: a fidgeter.  The guy could not sit still, shifting positions every couple of minutes and at times even leaning forward in his seat, which is a huge no-no for me, because it  blocks the view of the person sitting behind, i.e. me.  He also had a habit of tilting his head back and forth.  After once enduring the entirety of Blade Runner seated behind a woman who did the very same thing, for the film's entire running time, back and forth, back and forth, I swore I would never let it happen again, and yet I was powerless to do anything about it, as the theater was already full.  So I spent the whole movie peering over and around this constantly bobbing bald head.

Damn.  I never should have left to buy that hot dog.

Anyway, the movie.  It sucked.

Although, I have to wonder how much my opinion of the movie was colored by my immediate dislike for the filmmaker as he introduced it, for he was one of those vague, airy, low-talking gay guys you always see presenting their short films about young boys and their experiments with their mother's makeup collection at Outfest.  And while the movie had no gay themes, it was definitely a movie that only a gay man could make: pretty, histrionic, self-indulgent.  I need to start avoiding movies made by gay men, except for Bryan Singer, who's the only gay male filmmaker who makes movies like a man instead of like how he thinks Madonna would make the movie if she were there.

But no, the main reason I didn't like the movie was that it was about a thoroughly unlikeable woman who said and did nothing but uninteresting things.

Mike D'Angelo loved it.  He thought it was hilarious and touching.  I didn't laugh once, nor was I ever touched.  Maybe if I hadn't been sitting behind Mr. Clean...

Oh, and the main actor in this movie is the hottest guy in the world.  Luke Grimes.  Remember that name, because he's the Hottest Guy in the World.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weeresethakul)
When I got out of Shit Year (which I had originally picked to see solely because, of the four options in that time slot, it left the most amount of time before Uncle Boonmee...well, except for Boy, but who wants to see fucking Boy?  It's about a boy named Boy who worships Michael Jackson!), the line for Uncle Boonmee was literally out the door.  Luckily, there were still good seats available when I got in, and in fact I was able to snag the exact same seat I had had for Hahaha.  Even more surprisingly, the girl who had been sitting next to me during Hahaha was sitting next to me once again, in the same seat.  "Deja vu," she remarked.  Indeed.

This was the Palmes d'Or winner at Cannes, which is why I was so eager to see it.  It was not because of the director, whose Tropical Malady I graded *1/2 on the old Triple Reviews.  Although I liked his next movie, Syndromes and a Century, a bit better (**), and I liked this one even more (**1/2), so eventually he'll make a movie I love.  This one was interesting but not entirely successful.  Too abstract when it needed to be concrete, too concrete when it needed to be abstract.

That was it for Saturday.  I had a ticket to see The Housemaid and The Housemaid (two movies, the 1960 original and the 2010 remake) on Sunday, but I decided to skip them.  I'd had enough Asian movies for one weekend.  I was going to see Certified Copy Sunday night, but Ebony wanted to see

Heartbeats (Xavier Dolan)
So I went to see that, instead.  Ebony and I had seen Dolan's previous film at Outfest, and so I was fully prepared to dislike this one as much as I did that one.  But I actually disliked it more.  The thing about Dolan that everyone brings up when discussing him is that he's only 21 years old, and he's already made two feature films.  Well, whoop dee shit.  I would be impressed if he was talented, but he's not.  He's competent.  He's "talented" in the way film students are talented.  In other words, he watched some French New Wave films and said, "I can do that!"  Well, no he can't.  The French New Wave filmmakers were experimental, they took chances, but they also stuck to traditional elements, like creating great characters and exploring the human condition.  In Heartbeats, Dolan does everything in shorthand.  There are no characters, there are just archetypes.  There is no dialogue, there are just lines.  There are no actions, there are just moments.  And it was shot almost entirely in close-ups and spastic shaky cam.  Form should follow content, which becomes irrelevant when every scene is shot the same way.

Did I mention Xavier Dolan is gay?  Of course he's gay.  Only a gay boy could make such a self-important piece of fluff. [I know I'm not exactly being the poster boy for GLAAD here, but I think I'm well positioned to be the guy who incites the gay community to make better movies].

One of the main actors was there for the Q&A.  Oh, dear god, the Q&A!  Actually, the guy rose to the occasion and managed to turn the inane audience questions into something interesting, despite his limited English.  But it was still excruciating.  We stayed afterwards so Ebony could meet him.  Probably because he's hot.  I mean, he's no Luke Grimes, so I don't know what he was even doing there.

I almost felt like a heel marking my Audience Award ballots with 2's and 1's (out of five), when everyone else seemed to love all these movies.  But they really just weren't very good.  It was kind of depressing.

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October 21st, 2010
11:16 pm

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TV Dilemma
How do you know when it's time to stop watching a TV show?  Well, when it comes to current network TV shows, it's easy: I stop watching when I lose interest (I'm down to four: The Office, Glee, Family Guy, and No Ordinary Family, and No Ordinary Family is just barely hanging in there).  But what about shows on DVD?  There are so many shows that I dislike but which I feel like I should keep watching just because they're so beloved, and because the possibility exists that I'll grow to love them somewhere down the line.

I gave The Wire eight episodes or so.  Bored out of my mind.  And yet it's supposedly the best show ever.  If I keep watching it, will there come a point where I agree with that statement?

Watched the first episode of Dexter.  I didn't dislike it, but it didn't grab me, either.  But supposedly it gets much better.  Do I really want to invest the time to find out for sure?

Veronica Mars, I could only get through one episode, and that just barely.  Awful, awful show.

But I managed to get through four episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  To think I avoided it for so long because I hate Sarah Michelle Gellar and because Buffy fans are so annoying, when I could have been avoiding it because it's a truly dreadful show.  It also allegedly gets better (of course it does, it couldn't possibly get worse), but in this case I'm perfectly comfortable living in ignorance.  And since I also hated the pilots of both Firefly and Dollhouse, I can cross all Joss Whedon shows off my to-do list.  At least now I know who to blame for the current state of comic books: comic book writers all want to write like Joss Whedon.  But he's not a good writer.  With every sophomoric one-liner I just want to go to his house and hit him with a rolled-up newspaper.  And yes, I still want to punch Sarah Michelle Gellar in the face.  Acting just isn't her thing.

Californication: absolutely despised every minute of it.

Mad Men: I just watched the first episode tonight, and there are things about it I find it intriguing, but mostly I hated it.  It's all wink-wink, nudge-nudge, "Aren't these people just aaaawful?"  God, is the whole series like this?  And, again, would it be a waste of my time to find out?  Such a dilemma.

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September 30th, 2010
03:46 pm

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The Net
Facebook in a nutshell:

Person #1 - This is a picture I took.

Person #2 - I like that.

Person #3 - I like that.

Person #4 - I like that.

Person # 5 - I like that.

Person #6 - I got an A on my midterm.

Person #1 - I like that.

Person #2 - I like that.

Person #3 - I like that.

Person #4 - I like that.

Person #5 - I like that.

And this is why I don't use Facebook.  It's not because I'm trying to be a social rebel.  It's because it's fucking retarded.  There, now people can stop asking me why I'm not on Facebook.  Except, no, they can't, because no one will read this.  Because it's not on Facebook.

However, I am extremely excited about The Social Network.  According to the reviews it's getting, it's maybe the best movie since The Godfather.  Nonetheless, I keep hearing people say things like, "Why would anyone want to see that?"  Well, I'll give you two good reasons: David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin.  It's like a dream team.

This is what I hate: hand soap that makes your hands smell strongly of foam rubber.  Why does such a product even exist?

Now The Sound is doing what they call "Alphabet Soup," in which the title of every song they play has to begin with the last letter of the title of the previous song.  And they're doing it all day.  It's so silly and pointless, and I love it!  Those Mormons know how to run a radio station.  Say what you will about the LDS, but they provide a lot of good things: a cool radio station, pretty architecture, and hot missionaries (okay, so I have a Mormon fetish.  It's those damn white shirts and ties and the backpacks).

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August 24th, 2010
07:27 pm

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Beyond Normal
So it turns out that American Idiot is really just Across the Universe meets Fight Club.  Which, you know, is cool with me, they being two of my favorite movies.  I really need to see it on stage, because the soundtrack is kind of amazing.  Anyone want to fly me to New York?

Not quite so amazing is Next to Normal, which I also bought.  This is another one I need to see on stage, if only to determine if it's really good or really pretentious.  The soundtrack is decidedly unspectacular, but I have a feeling I'll love it on stage, like I did with Rent (same director, anyway... and they both won the Pulitzer).  I already kind of love it, in a Jerry Maguire kind of way (i.e. I love it for the musical that it wants to be, and I love it for the musical that it almost is).

My current obsession (other than rock musicals) is Mt. Everest.  I went to see a documentary on it, called The Wildest Dream, and then I discovered a Discovery Channel series called Everest: Beyond the Limit on Netflix.  It's a particular place on Earth that utterly awes and fascinates me, and in fact I often find myself tearing up just seeing it on TV, and yet it's a place I'll never visit.  I'm not being defeatist here, I mean I don't ever want to visit it.  Amputating an arm, becoming a hostage, licking Lindsay Lohan's anus... these are all things that I'd rather do than climb Mt. Everest.  I'm pretty sure anyone who does climb it is at least partially insane.  Besides, I kind of feel like I've already been there, considering how detailed both the movie and TV show are.  It's interesting to watch the guys on Beyond the Limit follow the same route up the mountain as the guys in The Wildest Dream, because it provides an almost eerie sense of familiarity, as if they're following a trail that I myself have traversed.

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August 14th, 2010
11:54 am

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A World of Pain
Emma Thompson is such a bitch.

"I find Audrey Hepburn fantastically twee. Twee is whimsy without wit," she said. "It's mimsy-mumsy sweetness without any kind of bite. And that's not for me. She can't sing and she can't really act, I'm afraid. I'm sure she was a delightful woman – and perhaps if I had known her I would have enjoyed her acting more, but I don't and I didn't, so that's all there is to it, really."

And she's stupid.



She didn't realize that the actress was playing a role, and she intentionally had her boob sticking out.

Emma Thompson is like the worst thing in the world.  She takes everything that is good and destroys it with her snooty British stick-up-the-butt ways.

Ironically, she wants Carey Mulligan to star in her My Fair Lady remake.  Talk about twee!

The good news is that I finally solved a 21-year-old puzzle.  In 1989, Siskel and Ebert did a special episode of their show in front of a live audience, in which they reminisced about their careers and showed clips from various movies that influenced them.  One of these clips in particular really stuck with me.  Well, not entirely.  All I remembered was that it was from a black-and-white British movie from the '60s, and that it showed a group of young Beatnik-types having a picnic in a convertible parked in the middle of the street.  A police officer approaches them and asks, "What is this?"  The guy in the driver's seat says it's "an island in a world of despair."

I loved that line so much that I stole it twice for two separate English essays in high school (but substituting different words for "despair").  But I never knew what movie it was from.  I originally thought it was from Blow-Up, simply because the clip immediately followed a clip from that film, but then I actually saw Blow-Up and it contained no such scene (and anyway, Blow-Up was in color).  But I also figured that since Siskel and Ebert were showing a clip from it, it must have been a famous, classic film that I was sure to stumble upon in the course of my movie watching.

Well, 20 years went by and I still had not encountered it.  And no amount of Googling ever turned up anything, not with the limited information I had.  I suppose I could have just asked someone on a message board, or simply asked Ebert himself, he being perhaps the world's most accessible celebrity, but that would have been like admitting defeat.  Then, finally, someone quoted the "island" line on their blog, thus allowing me to Google it and ascertain the movie title.  It turns out that I never, ever would have stumbled upon this movie by chance, as it's a movie that I still have never heard of: Morgan! So then I was able to find the actual Siskel & Ebert episode on YouTube.  It further turns out that it wasn't a convertible, but a regular car; it wasn't a group of people, but simply the one guy; he wasn't having a picnic, he was shaving; and it wasn't "an island in a world of despair," but "an island in a world of pain".  It's funny how memory works.

Oh, and apparently it's a really crappy movie.

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July 26th, 2010
10:10 pm

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Dex-Starr
Dex-Starr makes my life better.

Some background is in order here.  See, there isn't just the Green Lantern, there are thousands of Green Lanterns, who make up the Green Lantern Corps.  And there aren't just Green Lanterns, there are also Red Lanterns, Blue Lanterns, Orange Lanterns, etc.  And they all represent a different emotion.  Green is will power.  Red, of course, is rage.  And one of the Red Lanterns is a kitty:






Good kitty.

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July 24th, 2010
12:40 pm

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An Immodest Proposal
People really seem to dig Jesus.  And that's cool and all, we all need role models.  But let's face it, things didn't work out too well for Jesus.  As Tim Rice astutely pointed out, he picked a backward time and a strange land to roll out his message.  "Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication."  Jesus's time is done.  He lacks relevance for our modern lifestyle.

So I suggest a new object of worship, one that embodies the ideals and values of the 21st century.  Human perfection doesn't mean the same thing now as it did in Jesus's day.   The modern man doesn't need platitudes about peace and brotherly love, he needs to learn how to adapt his lifestyle to a world in which image is everything. 

Fortunately, we've already been gifted with not one, but two modern messiahs, men who represent the highest state of being as defined by the cultural and sociological mores of the present.  I'm speaking, of course, of the Most Interesting Man in the World (from the Dos Equis commercials) and the Man Your Man Could Smell Like (from the Old Spice commercials).  Yes, I know they are fictional characters created to sell products, but after all, isn't that what Jesus is?  Jesus is the ultimate corporate spokesman, who sells not beer or cologne, but membership in the Church.  What's the difference?  Jesus turned water into wine, the MYMCSL turns tickets to that thing you love into diamonds.  Who would rather have wine than diamonds?

Clearly, the MIMITW and the MYMCSL are the two best people in the world.  There's really no arguing that point.  So why shouldn't we turn to them for our worship and idolatry?  If there was a Church of the MIMITW and the MYMCSL, I would seriously attend it.  There would finally be a church that understands what we as human beings are looking for in life.  Isn't it more important to follow a man whose to-do lists have won Pulitzers, than a man who, as Douglas Adams put it, was nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change?  Jesus just isn't cool.

Of course, if we're talking about real people, I think Dexter Holland might be the coolest man in the world.  He's the lead singer of the Offspring (a band that gets cooler with every album), he has a Master's degree in molecular biology, he's a pilot who has flown around the world solo, and he owns his own brand of hot sauce.  I mean, I'm not saying I'd worship the guy, but damn, he's cool.

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July 11th, 2010
10:44 pm

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Yeah, I spoke too soon about Dead Like Me.  I can see now why it was canceled.  It lost steam halfway through the first season and never really recovered (apparently Bryan Fuller, the creator, left the show, which would explain it).  So it went from being brilliant to simply being enjoyable.  What a shame.

I think South Park might be the worst TV show ever.  Why is this even on TV?  I know YouTube wasn't around when it was first made, but surely Trey Parker could have just kept it on his laptop and only shown it to friends and family members?

I think I'll watch Breaking Bad next.  Apparently it's like the greatest thing in the world.

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July 10th, 2010
04:47 pm

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In the Heights
Hmm, I never knew that the roles of Salieri and Mozart in Amadeus were originated on Broadway by Ian McKellan and Tim Curry, respectively.  That would have been something to see.

In the Heights was marvelous.  I could have done without a lot of the lame sitcom dialogue, most of which wasn't funny (but of course the audience laughed at everything), but it didn't really matter because the musical numbers were so fantastic.  I must have the soundtrack.

I'm glad we changed our tickets from Tuesday to Friday, after learning that Lin-Manuel Miranda was ill and couldn't perform.  He's the star of the original Broadway show as well as the creator.  So getting a chance to see him, knowing that this is his creation and his story to tell, made the experience feel much more special.  Plus he's just an awesome performer.  Sabrina Sloan from American Idol Season 6 is also in the touring show, but not in the performance we saw.  Musical theater... where all failed American Idol contestants end up.  Actually, successful ones end up there, too -- Sabrina's AI competitor Jordin Sparks is going to be in the Broadway show.

I read a review of the Tony Awards in which the writer bemoaned the way they always favor big, crowd-pleasing musicals over more artistically ambitious productions, citing In the Heights winning Best Musical over Passing Strange as an example.  Having now seen both (well, I saw the movie of Passing Strange, which is just a filmed production of the play), I have to side with the Tonys on this one.  The two shows actually have a lot in common: they're both nostalgic musicals about minorities from inner-city neighborhoods, and they're both narrated by characters who are played by the actual creators of the show.  In the Heights, though, is a more traditional song-and-dance musical, despite its hip-hop and salsa influences, while Passing Strange is more intimate and experimental.  But it's also self-indulgent as fuck.  The writer actually named his autobiographical main character "Youth."  Of course, this is a guy who just calls himself "Stew," one word.

We're definitely going to the theater more often.  Leap of Faith opens in September, based on the wonderful Steve Martin movie, with music by Alan Menken.  I am so there.

There's a musical coming to Broadway called Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, described by Wikipedia as a "Wild West rock musical" that redefines Andrew Jackson as an emo rock star.  Holy shit.  That's, like, the greatest thing I've ever heard of in my life.  Too bad I wasn't aware of it two years ago when it opened in L.A., with the girl from Avenue Q, no less.  I think I might cry.  I need to remain vigilant to prevent such catastrophic oversights in the future.

I've kind of regretted not going to any Broadway shows when I lived in New York, but now that I think about it, I'm wondering if there was anything worth seeing back then.  It was during that dark period of the '90s, between Phantom of the Opera and Rent, when there was seemingly nothing new or interesting coming out.  I don't even remember hearing about any Broadway shows when I was there, so maybe that's why it never occurred to me to go see one.  It wasn't until Rent came out (when I was already back in California) that I was even aware of a new musical (well, other than Beauty and Beast.  And Sunset Boulevard, I guess.  But they're based on movies, they don't count).

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July 4th, 2010
12:00 am

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I Closed My Eyes and I Slipped Away
I need to take part in more activities in which I end up dropping acid in a tent and making out with Paul Dano.  But such situations can't be manufactured, can they?  I'll look into it.

There's a restaurant chain called Opaque, in which you sit and eat your food in complete darkness while being served by blind waiters, and it costs $100 a person.  I'm not making this up.  I can't help but have contempt for anyone who goes there.  Except Jason, who for some reason thinks it's not a bad idea.

I didn't know that Brad Delp, the singer from Boston, killed himself three years ago.  He inhaled the smoke from charcoal, and left two notes, one stating that he was a "lonely soul," and another note, posted on his front door, warning people of the carbon monoxide inside.  So sad, yet so thoughtful.  And yes, I'm obsessing about this.  It's Max Linder all over again.  Why doesn't someone help these people?!  I mean, he was only, like, the greatest singer in the world.

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July 1st, 2010
10:39 pm

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Sawed Off
I love "More Than a Feeling" (and Boston in general) even more now that I know that it was just one guy playing all four guitars, and another guy doing all the singing (including his own back-up vocals), plus a third guy on drums.  There's something almost heroic about that kind of DIY music recording.

Why did I feel compelled to watch all six Saw movies?  I guess watching lengthy horror movie series (or any lengthy movie series) is my guilty pleasure.  I honestly don't know what to say about these movies.  I don't even trust my own opinion of them.  They're already starting to run together in my mind.

Are they good movies?  Is that word even applicable here?  I'm pretty sure II and IV are good movies.  They're the most cleverly written of the series, and they make the strongest points.  I'm fairly positive V is a bad movie, simply because it has no point, and because I said, "That was the stupidest one!" immediately after it ended.  III is just an utterly ridiculous orgy of gore and sensory assault, basically a two-hour Knott's Scary Farm maze in cinematic form (actually, that's pretty much what they all are); VI has a lame ending but is otherwise fairly decent; and the original Saw is just plain dumb.  But they're all entertaining, they're all more or less interchangeable, and if you shuffled all of these mini-reviews around, it wouldn't really make much of a difference.  Criticism slides right off these movies.  I'm not even sure the series can be judged as individual movies.  It's basically a serialized TV series that only has one episode per year.

What it really needs is for George Bluth and his one-armed friend to show up and teach Jigsaw and company a lesson for teaching people lessons.  That has to be the ending of the last movie.  It just has to be.

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