Monday, December 22, 2008

The Best Movies Of 2008

Screw top ten lists... ten is an arbitrary number that would exclude many great films I loved this year. This is a list of the best films of the year, and I'm going to put as many as I see fit, damnit.
2008 was a rough year for me personally, but it was more than decent cinematically. How can you complain about a year in which two of the biggest blockbusters were also as deeply felt, poetic, and thought provoking as anything to come out of the indie world in years? How often do you see big name directors taking such big, ambitious risks with studio movies, allowing themselves to fail a little bit in order to achieve so much more? Indie movies are in trouble to a distressing degree, but when there are still filmmakers pushing the boundaries of the medium, telling deeply personal stories, taking hugely ambitious risks that don't always pay off, using their unique perspectives to show us sites we've never seen before, and getting major studios to foot the bill for their sometimes subversive, often obsessive, and always deeply personal visions, then movies are not in bad shape, as an art form.
Here's my list of the best of 2008.

(Dir. Jon Favreau, Wri. Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway)
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. completed his career and personal redemption with a triumphant year that included this fun comic book romp and his hilarious turn as a white actor playing a black man in "Tropic Thunder." But it was "Iron Man" that relied most fully on Downey Jr.'s considerable charms, as the entire movie hinged on him. Downey Jr. took a B-list hero and shot Tony Stark straight to the A-list with this fun action adventure. The sequels promise to deliver even more fun in this instant franchise.

(Dir. Jonathan Demme, Wri. Jenny Lumet)
A comeback for Jonathan Demme, who shakes off his recent spate of failed big budget, slick remakes of classic films to craft an intimate, handheld indie family drama. Anne Hathaway is a revelation as Kym, an angry, narcissistic, and very fucked up recovering drug addict who leaves the isolation of her rehab facility to come home for her sister's wedding. Kym descends on the happy weekend like a hurricane, leaving a trail of emotional destruction in her path. Demme, the director of "Stop Making Sense" and other classic concert films and a massive music fan, intercuts Kym's breakdown with joyous world music performances from wedding guests to cut the building tension. Kym wins a bit of redemption by the end, but it's a hard and intense fight with very small victories. A nice little movie with an honest and heartbreaking lead performance from an actress I never thought of as more than a (very) pretty face.

(Dir. Martin McDonagh, Wri. Martin McDonagh)
Colin Farrell,Brendan Gleeson,Ralph Fiennes
I've been feeling down about indie movies lately. It doesn't seem like a whole lot of fresh filmmakers are making interesting movies with unique voices in the post studio indie shingle era. I mean, when the "indies" getting the widest distribution are emptily "quirky" comedies starring big name TV stars and directed by the sons of A-List Hollywood filmmakers, you know that independent cinema is in a bit of a bind. That's why Martin McDonagh's hit man comedy/ drama/ buddy film/ crime flick/ morality tale is such a breath of fresh air. The trailers made it look like one of those quirky and too clever by half son of "Pulp Fiction" crime flicks about pop culture obsessed, nihilistic killers who do their jobs without blinking an eye... but it turns out "In Bruges" is very much about guilt. Colin Farrell is touching as a sweetly naive hitman who is sent to the medieval town of Bruges with his partner (the always great Brendan Gleeson) to await instructions from their boss. Farrell becomes bored while Gleeson enjoys sight seeing in the historic town, but the two slowly develop a friendship in a very organic way... until their boss, played by Ralph Fiennes, informs Gleeson that the mission is to take out Farrell. More said would ruin the movie's unpredictable digressions and impressively executed tonal shifts. This is an immensely impressive first feature from playwright McDonagh, whose talent and wicked sense of dialog burn brightly. If there were more first time feature directors making movies half this accomplished, the indie world would be in much better shape indeed.

(Dir. David Gordon Green, Wri. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg)
Seth Rogen,Danny McBride,Danny McBride,James Franco,Pineapple Express
The Judd Apatow comedy machine just keeps rolling. This year, Team Apatow delivered the sweet, funny, and nakedly honest breakup comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," but then really kicked it up a notch with the stoner action comedy "Pineapple Express." Most of Apatow's productions have been more funny on the script side and a bit lacking on the cinematic style, but "Pineapple" was helmed by indie darling David Gordon Green, who brought a fluid style behind the camera that really raises it to cult comedy status. Seth Rogen does what Seth Rogen does best, while James Franco surprises everyone who only knows him from his wooden work in the "Spider-Man" trilogy by proving that he can be intentionally hilarious as a sweet and natured pot dealer, in a buddy cop movie that replaces the cops with bumbling stoners. But it's "The Foot Fist Way" star Danny McBride who really steals the movie as the redneck dealer Red who sells out his friends... but comes back to help them even after they have a knock down, drag out, completely brutal fight... because that's what friends are for. "Pineapple Express" is like nothing you've ever seen before, but it's a movie I'll be watching on DVD over and over again. It's just really damned funny.

(Dir. Tomas Alfredson, Wri. John Ajvide Lindqvist)
Eli,Let the Right One In
"Twilight" got all the attention, but this is the vampire romance to see from 2008. This shivery Swedish film is equal parts creepy and sweet, as it tells the strange tale of a young vampire girl and the awkward and put upon boy who loves her. This one isn't for the faint of heart... unlike in the swoony teen romantic hit, the vampires in "Let the Right One In" can't ignore their lust for blood. I've already written about this wonderful and strangely beautiful movie, but it deserves to be mentioned again at the end of the year.

(Dir. Darren Arronofsky, Wri. Robert D. Siegel)
Randy "The Ram" Robinson,Mickey Rourke,The Wrestler
Darren Arronofsky was beat up pretty bad by critics for making his (underrated) time spanning philosophical romance about death "The Fountain," and star Mickey Rourke has been pretty beat up by life for over two decades now. So the two of them coming together to collaborate on "The Wrestler," about a former pro wrestler whose life and body are a complete wreck looking for a big comeback fight was obviously a match made in movie heaven. "The Wrestler" has a pretty standard sports movie narrative, but its lifted by Rourke's amazing performance and Arronofsky's gritty and visceral direction. This movie might be slightly overrated and just a tad conventional, but as three comeback stories in the fictional and real world merging together, it's nothing short of remarkable.

(Dir. Woody Allen, Wri. Woody Allen)
Javier Bardem,Penelope Cruz,Scarlett Johansson,Woody Allen,Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Critics have been dubbed almost every Woody Allen film this decade a "return to form," but his latest is the first to truly live up to the hype. While the Oscar nominated "Match Point" was a ponderously awkward, overrated rehash of Woody's brilliant "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is the real deal. The story of two American girls (Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall) experiencing a summer of love in Spain, the movie is funny and natural in ways that Woody's films haven't been in years, buoyed by charismatically magnetic performances from Javier Bardem and Penolope Cruz, as a passionate and feuding former couple. This is Woody's best script in years, and even though it's his lightest and funniest work in nearly a decade, it also breaks your heart a bit by the end. Finally, a new Woody Allen movie I can love and place in the same category as "Annie Hall," "Manhattan," "Hannah and Her Sisters," "The Purple Rose of Cairo," "Bullets Over Broadway," "Everyone Says I Love You," and "Deconstructing Harry." And between the gorgeous Spanish locations and the equally gorgeous cast, it ain't a hard movie on the eyes, either.

7. CHE
(Dir. Steven Soderbergh, Wri. Peter Buchman and Benjamin A. van der Veen)
Che Guevara,Che,Benicio Del Toro
Steven Soderbergh's anti-biopic of the revolutionary leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara (brilliantly played by Benicio Del Toro, in an unsentimental performance) barely gives you any context for the nearly five hours of revolutionary guerrilla combat you will sit through if you are able to catch the "road show" version of the movie before it leaves theater. The first half of the film is about the successful Cuban revolution that Che helped Castro lead, and the second movie jumps to Che's failed revolution in Bolivia... while skipping over the post revolutionary time he spent in Cuba, in which he and his allies morphed from populists into dictators. Soderbergh made some very distinct choices in telling the story of Che as a revolutionary warrior, and his clear eyed and objective vision makes for a fascinating war movie. If you don't get to go to the two for one "road show" experience, try to see the Cuban and Bolivian halves as close together as possible... because they really do work as to halves to a coherent whole. A must see experience for anyone who is truly interested in cinema... just try your best not to make the same mistake I did and get front row seats for this five hour, hand held, subtitled war movie. Hey, at least there was an intermission.

(Dir. Danny Boyle, Wri. Simon Beaufoy)
Slumdog Millionaire,Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

I've already written enough
about Danny Boyle's Dickensian rags to riches fable about a poor boy from the rough streets of Mumbai who improbably knows the answers to every question on India's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," but only appears on the show in order to get the attention of his lost love. It's a heartfelt, uplifting crowd pleaser that will leave you dancing out of the theaters.

(Dir. Andrew Stanton, Wri. Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon)
The first half of the movie is near perfection; poetic, heartbreakingly lonely, disturbingly bleak, yet strangely hopeful, swooningly romantic, and beautiful. Oh yeah, and it's a kid's movie about two bleeping robots falling in love. A lot has been written about how the second half is not as strong; yes, when Wall-E and his metal love, Eve, leave an Earth long abandoned by humans to find that its former inhabitants have turned into lazy fat slobs who can no longer walk and are addicted to leisure and consumption, the satire is a bit too glib by half. But the point of Wall-E's romantic journey is to remind mankind of how to be human; it could have been better developed, but there is plenty of poetry in the second half that shouldn't be ignored. You'd have to be made of metal yourself to not shed at least one tear during Wall-E and Eve's soaring "dance" through the stars. "Wall-E" is an imperfect and ambitious near masterpiece, and it's amazing to watch Pixar, a successful commercial animation studio continue to experiment and take major risks when they could be content to pump out sequels that would make them plenty of money (the less said about the imminent "Cars 2," though, the better.)

(Dir. David Fincher, Wri. Eric Roth)
Brad Pitt,The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,Cate Blanchett
David Fincher is not a director who I ever expected to make a movie I'd describe as a "lovely fable," but the director of "Se7en," "Fight Club," and last year's masterful "Zodiac" has done just that with "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Fincher has always been a visual director of the highest caliber, but his most recent output has seen a director whose early work was filled with over the top style and shock value really mature as a storyteller. "Button" tells the tale of the titular hero (played by Brad Pitt, starring in his third Fincher film,) who is aging backwards (using stunningly photo real effects.) The epic movie takes us through Benjamin's lived backward life, focusing on his decades long romance with the love of his life, Daisy (an impossibly beautiful Cate Blanchett.) Fincher, whose work has always been dark and cynical, uses the strange setup as a metaphor for how all of our lives are ticking backwards towards zero, in a movie that is very much about mortality and how "nothing lasts." But don't let his cynical perspective, ever present dark sense of humor, and obsession with death fool you... it's also a romantic and heartbreaking movie about how important living and loving life fully is. Has David Fincher gone soft? Maybe Tyler Durden would think so, but with the one two punch of "Zodiac" last year and "Button" this year, Fincher's work has evolved into much more mature, rewarding, intelligent, and emotional territory. I can't wait to see the projects he takes on next.

(Dir. Gus Van Sant, Wri. Dustin Lance Black)
Sean Penn,Milk
Sean Penn is absolutely brilliant as slain San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to major office in the United States. Gus Van Sant, who has been making artful yet artificial "experimental" films for a few years now, shoots this biopic in a straightforward manner... and the film soars under his less ponderous direction. Turns out that Van Sant is a pretty good director of mainstream films, and he shouldn't fight it at all... his recreation of San Francisco in the 70s is spot on as he shows the birth of the gay rights movement, led by one charismatic, eccentric, and sometimes egotistical man. Penn and Van Sant tell Harvey Milk's story honestly and powerfully... probably the way Milk would have wanted it. It's a beautiful movie that avoids most of the problems that biopics often face, and it's incredibly relevant right now after the recent passage of prop 8 in California... but it's a beautifully told and powerful story in any era. Penn should win the Oscar for his work here, but James Franco, as Milk's longtime lover, and Josh Brolin, as Dan White, the man on a fatal collision course with Milk, both deserve praise for their work in the film as well. This is a powerful film with the potential to win a lot of hearts and minds... if mainstream audiences are willing to see a movie about a subject they might be uncomfortable with, they'll be greatly rewarded.

(Dir. Charlie Kaufman, Wri. Charlie Kaufman)
Synedoche, New York,New York,Charlie Kaufman
I have already blogged about Charlie Kaufman's astoundingly ambitious directorial debut, but there is always more to say about a movie that is about so many things. Kaufman tells the story of Caden Cotard (played by the one and only Philip Seymour Hoffman,) an obsessed playwright who throws himself so deeply into his massive theater piece which obsessively recreates his life that he forgets to actually live it in a dense, rewarding, and often heartbreaking first feature from the Oscar winning writer of "Adaptation" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." This is a sometimes confounding puzzle box of a movie that digs deep into your psyche and refuses to let go. It's a giant, flawed, and deeply human piece of work that sometimes flies too close to the sun, but manages to never come crashing down to Earth. Too few people saw it in theaters... but that's why they invented DVDs and Blu Rays.

(Dir. Christopher Nolan, Wri. Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan)
Most years, my favorite movie and the best movie of the year are not one and the same. A favorite movie is the one that you want to pop in on a rainy day, to make you laugh or cry... films that are objectively "the best" of a given year are more often challengingly weighty intellectual and artistic works that are not always the most watchable and entertaining flicks. So it's really rare that my favorite and the best movie of the year are one and the same, and it's even rarer still when critics and audiences can agree on the merits of a film to such a degree that they did on "The Dark Knight," which is the biggest hit of the decade and also the finest film of the year. "The Dark Knight" doesn't need qualifiers like "the best SUPER HERO movie ever made"... this film is a straight up American masterpiece, not just great among its genre of primary colored tights wearing heroes. Epic in scale, morally complex, frightening, and incredibly intelligent, Nolan's vision brings the heroes, villains, and regular citizens of Gotham City vividly to life. This is a great post 9/11 parable about how a population reacts to terror, how easily society can descend into chaos, and what heroism means in our cynical times. It's a character study, a massive crime drama, and a Greek Tragedy. It's also an amazingly kick ass piece of Hollywood pop entertainment, with stunning set pieces like the long and chaotic truck chase through the bowels of Gotham, the breathtaking opening bank heist, and Batman's rooftop extraction of a seemingly untouchable Chinese mob banker from Hong Kong. This is a movie that proves a blockbuster can have big ideas without sacrificing one bit of entertainment.
The work of the entire ensemble cast is tremendous, with Gary Oldman a standout as the film's moral compass and heart, Jim Gordon. But the performance that can't be ignored (and will not be on Oscar night, even if the Academy foolishly decides to snub "The Dark Knight" of any other, much deserved awards) is Heath Ledger's absolutely stunning live wire turn as The Joker. Much has been made about Ledger's work in the film, but there is always more to say about a performance which combines ferociously animalistic anger, a compelling self loathing streak, and nerve jangling unpredictability with a steely intelligence, an undeniable wit, and a strangely grungy charm to create a version of an iconic character with decades of history that was legendary long before the movie was released in theaters to box office records. His tragic death adds another layer to his work in the film, but Ledger's Joker would be one for the books either way... it's far and away the performance of the year in the movie of the year, from an objective and artistic standpoint and in one popcorn movie loving fanboy's subjective opinion.
The Joker

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Parade RickRolled

I'm sure millions of Americans scratched their heads watching this Internet phenomenon come to life during an already surreal performance by strange looking monsters from the Cartoon Network hit "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends." But for those who got the RickRoll reference... enjoy this Turkey Day treat before you eat your big meal tonight.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wow, The Sarah Palin Show Gets Funnier With Every Episode

Sarah Palin has refused to shut up more than two weeks after losing the election, proving herself unsure of how one is supposed to behave after one loses a presidential election. You know, with grace and dignity and all that. But that wouldn't be our Sarah's style!
And now we get this video of her giving an interview while Turkeys are being beheaded right behind her as she yammers on about nothing and makes passive aggressive comments about being criticized (even though she deserves every bit of it.) This has got to be a metaphor for something, right?

The guy who is slaughtering turkeys and keeps looking back at her is my favorite part of the video.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oliver With An Indian Twist

Danny Boyle's crowd pleasing rags to riches romance "Slumdog Millionaire" opened in theaters this past weekend, doing brisk indie business against the Bond onslaught. "Slumdog" is a Dickensian tale about a poor young man in India who ends up on the country's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," where he does extraordinarily well for a poor and uneducated kid... and the film flashes back to show how he knew all the answers to the increasingly tough questions.

Each flashback reveals more and more about our plucky hero Jamal's "Oliver Twist"-esque back story as he learns to survive on the streets of the slums through resourcefulness and invention. The movie has a sweet romance at the center, which gives it a beating heart to keep the sprawling story focused as it dives head first into the packed and lively streets of India. The movie should be praised for giving Western audiences a new and revealing perspective on the rapidly changing Indian cultural landscape... while never slowing down, becoming preachy, or becoming anything less than completely entertaining.

Boyle's energetic direction and storytelling push the movie forward with locomotive speed and exuberant force, even when the story goes to darker places. Boyle pulls off a very delicate balancing act by combining a gritty, handheld, on the dirty and dangerous street style reminiscent of "City of God" with a fairy tale-esque story of romantic fantasy. And the three young actors who play Jamal over the years all bring enormous charm and likability that make him a character truly worth rooting for. "Slumdog" is a crowd pleaser in the truest sense that will have you cheering with excitement by the (very funny and joyous) closing credits. It's a really unique and terrific experience, and another triumph for the madly creative and extremely prolific Boyle.

San Francisco, The Scariest Place On Earth

Oh my god, did you know that they have homeless people in San Francisco? That's one of the terrifying things you'll discover in Bill O'Reilly's "documentary" on the city by the bay. Quake in terror at the prospect of "secular progressives" like the hippies, slackers, and dropouts (who obviously represent everyone in The City) taking over our country!
I love his producer who did the documentary who had never been to San Francisco talking about how "regular people are tolerant... and enlightened" as if it's a bad thing.

I feel like O'Reilly has really gone off the deep end with his latest attacks on "secular progressive" America vs. "regular America." O'Reilly calls himself a "patriot," then shits on literally half of the country and implies that they're all marginal weirdos? It's got to make him panic to see so many people voted against the ideology he's been blabbering on about on his show for so many years.

Here's a tip Bill... maybe a little less fear mongering and a little more accepting the idea that the reason America is a great country is because it's got all kinds of "folks" and not just O'Reilly's (mythical) vision of "decent" small town Americans who work hard at their jobs, go to church on Sundays, vote Republican, and don't quite understand those crazy gays and hippies in San Francisco. But then again, where would the ratings go if he didn't have fear to monger?

Friday, November 14, 2008

That's Not A Panda

O'Reilly went on "The Daily Show" last night and the culture wars were finally fought to the end between he and Jon Stewart. Good stuff.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Losing With Class And Grace

Lost among the celebration for Obama's historic and amazing victory was talk of John McCain's concession speech. Watching him talk, it was as if the McCain many of us loved and respected in 2000 was finally back, as if the 2008 GOP Presidential candidate who betrayed many of his values and best qualities just disappeared into the ether once the election was decided. McCain seemed earnestly moved by the history of the evening, even though he came up short on his dream to lead the country he loves so dearly. His words touched me and brought a few tears to my eyes. I'm so excited and thrilled that my side won for once, but seeing McCain graciously accept the outcome of the election and the fact that he will never be president was really poignant and restored much of the respect I've always felt for the man.

When McCain congratulated Obama in the speech, the loyalists in the crowd began to boo... a very un-classy thing to do, and it's a moment when you can almost feel McCain wondering who the hell these hateful people who became entrenched with his campaign really are, and maybe a sad realization that he lost because these are the types he ended up courting for votes. Many of the people at McCain rallys towards the waining weeks of the election were hateful mobs who believed Obama is a terrorist socialist who wants to bring down the USA, instead of a transformative politician who has the potential to shake up history and restore America's reputation throughout the world, and McCain clearly grew more and more uncomfortable with the anger these people displayed as November 4th approached. McCain never wanted to gain the vote of the religious right nutjobs who took him down in 2000, and I imagine he's relieved that he doesn't need to deal with those people anymore. I also imagine he's glad to cut all ties to his disastrous choice for a running mate, the unworldly, anti-intellectual, and terribly naive Sarah Palin.

I'm really hoping and expecting that McCain will work closely with the new administration. I fully expect Obama to live up to his promise to reach across the aisle and try to heal the wounds caused by the very divisive last eight years. Who needs partisanship right now? We need to heal this country, and political infighting amongst dems and repubs is not going to help anyone in this critical moment of our nation's history.

John McCain was running against history in 2008, and even though he's likely personally disappointed that he will never become the president of the United States, he was gracious and humble enough to movingly acknowledge that Obama's win is a stunning step forward for the country.

Welcome back, Maverick.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

But Who Will Warn Us About The Dangers Of Dinosaur Cloning And Nanotehnology Now That He's Gone?

"Jurassic Park" author and "E.R." creator Michael Chrichton passed away today.

Chrichton was a bit of a hacky writer, but he probably had more influence on me than Hemingway or Fitzgerald. I went to film school because of "Jurassic Park." The "J.P." novel and "Sphere" were my favorite books ever when I was 12. Chrichton's techno thrillers were like candy to me when I first starting reading books beyond the R.L. Stine reading level.

The guy was a notorious pain in the ass to filmmakers, and according to legend only worked well with Spielberg (because he's Spielberg.) But he wrote the pretty awesome Yul Brenner sci-fi movie "West World," created "E.R." (which was good at some point,) and, well, wrote "Jurassic Park." He also wrote some book about how global warming is a hoax and the people who believe in it are dangerous fools. But that's beside the point.

That guy wrote "Jurassic Park." It's a little sad, even though he was a bad writer with a bad temper who wanted to discredit people trying to fix the environment. I might not have made it to film school had he not written that book. Rest in peace, Michael Chrichton.

Hope Mixed With A Side Of Disappointment And Sadness

Last night was a wonderful victory for American progress with Barack Obama's election. But on the same historic night that a black man was elected as the next President of the United States of America, civil rights were being stripped from millions of Americans through the passage of the vile Proposition 8 in California (and similar gay marriage bans in Arizona, Florida, while Arkansas passed a horrifying ban on gay couples adopting children.) Prop 8 creates a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and the yes on 8 campaign was funded by millions of dollars from Mormons outside of California, some of the money coming from outside of the U.S.

The basic argument was that gay marriage somehow threatens the fabric of "traditional families." What I'm trying to understand is how my family is somehow a threat to other families.

I was raised by a lesbian couple. My mothers have been together for nearly 30 years. I'm 26, and I'm the oldest of four siblings. My parents have never broken up or even been separated in my lifetime. When my parents decided to have children, they took it as a solemn commitment to stay together in good times and in bad, no matter how much they drive each other crazy sometimes (as all couples do.) With most "traditional marriages" ending in divorce, how is my completely normal and loving American family somehow a threat to anything or anybody? All three of my siblings and I are normal and well adjusted (if sometimes slightly neurotic) people. We've all gotten into good colleges and none of us have ever gotten into any real trouble. When I was in high school and still lived at home, we would have family dinners together every night that my birth mom would make from scratch, like a stereotypical "traditional mother" (though very few "traditional mothers" still cook dinner for their families every single night in this day and age, but my mom did.) My family spent a lot more time together than most American families do... we had movie nights, and family trips into the city, and we would gather in the living room to watch our favorite TV shows together. We still spend the holidays together every year, and I hear from both my moms at least once a day when they call to just check in and see how I'm doing. We're practically a 1950's sitcom perfect family, other than the fact that my parents are two women instead of a man and a woman. What's so terrifying about that? What is it that these people fear or are trying to make other people afraid of?

I'm deeply disappointed and personally hurt by the choice California voters made in this election. I thought that Californians were a more tolerant bunch than this, but too much money was poured into the passing of 8 by the Mormon Church, who feels it's okay to impose their morality in a ballot proposition, separation of church and state be damned.

A vote for Prop 8 was a vote for intolerance, bigotry, and inequality. The fact that is passed is extremely discouraging, but the fact that is passed by such a narrow margin gives me a glimmer of hope. More and more people seem to be getting it, and soon enough a majority of people will be empathetic to the civil rights of gay couples. Equal rights for gays is the next big civil rights battle, and the same people who once tried to prevent African Americans and women from getting the vote are trying to prevent couples who love each other from marrying, just because both members of the couple are the same gender. Those people who tried to stop progress 40 years ago eventually failed, after brave progressives fought long and hard for what they knew in their hearts and minds was right and just. And now a black man has been elected president on the same day that a gay marriage ban passed in California. It's as if one chapter on the story of American civil rights is closing and another one is beginning.

It's going to be a long, tough fight, with many setbacks along the way. But America will get there. Barack Obama's election is proof that it will take time, but America will get there.

Yes We Did

In "Jurassic Park," Chaos Theory expert Ian Malcolm warns repeatedly of the dangers of the dinosaur filled theme park (though I'm not sure why one would need a Chaos Theory spewing mathematician to tell you that a park with hungry cloned dinosaurs set loose in the modern world for the first time in 65 million years could be dangerous... it seems like it would be pretty obvious.) When all hell breaks loose, Malcolm says "Boy, do I hate being right all the time."

Last night I got to reverse that cliched bit of dialogue when I said "Boy, do I love being wrong all the time (in terms of this crazy election cycle.)"

I voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. I was too cynical to really believe in the hype surrounding Obama. I didn't think Obama had a shot at winning the presidency. He was too young and new. America is just not ready to elect a black man. He's not going to be able to fight back against the Republican election machine. Only the Clintons know how to beat the GOP in the modern era. He needs to fight back after McCain starting getting nasty in the campaign or he's going to look spineless and lose. His middle name is Hussein and that's going to scare people. His first name rhymes with Osama and that's going to scare people. He's going to gain the support of young hipsters, but older voters will not be moved by his message. He needs to stop saying McCain is an honorable American all the time, because McCain would never say the same thing about him. People are too cynical to buy into his message of hope. The youth vote is going to lose their passion for the guy and not come out to vote.

These are all the things I thought and feared.

But instead Obama stuck to his guns, ran a disciplined, on message campaign, never lost his cool, and never lost focus. He ran a campaign aimed at inspiring people and appealing to their hopes and dreams instead of their cynical side. And now he's made history, becoming the first black man elected to the highest office of the land. After eight long years of lies, wars, natural disasters, a growing national deficit, and a lowering standing in the eyes of the world, Barack Obama has been elected president of the United States of America by offering people hope and the possibility of change. For one night, at least, I was able to drop my cynicism and actually believe in something good happening in America.

It's nice to be wrong, sometimes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I Didn't Believe It Could Happen...but it looks like it's all happening. Wow.
Change. Hope. All that jazz. This is happening, and it's all happening tonight.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween Fail, Continued (UnFailed)

So I was driving home from work on Friday night and saw all the kids out enjoying Halloween and the adults out acting like kids and decided to quit moping and just go out and have fun. I ended up walking down to the big West Hollywood parade and went to two parties. I still had no real costume to speak of, so I had to improvise a bit with a very half assed and cheap Kenneth from "30 Rock" costume...

I was surprised how few Sarah Palins I ended up seeing. I saw less than five Palins, one of them a "sexy Palin" (who was, admittedly, pretty hot) and not even one drag Palin (mostly because the drag queens are usually far too clever to do a costume that a lot of other people already thought of and are ahead of the rest of us on the kitsch curve so must know that Palin's camp value is already played out, or something like that.) I did see a countless number of Jokers, unsurprisingly... but none were as good as Creed from "The Office" doing the "pencil trick" routine.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Fail

This is going to be one of this slightly whiny blog posts. You've been properly warned.

As of 4 o'clock in the afternoon on October 31, I have no Halloween costume, no plans for the night, and no real desire or motivation to do anything approaching fun for a holiday I generally enjoy. I haven't carved a Jack O' Lantern this year or put up any seasonally spooky decorations. I don't even have any candy, so I feel like there are even odds that my apartment door will be covered in eggs when I wake up in the morning. Luckily, there are not really any children in my neighborhood, so the only people walking around in costumes nearby will be hipster chicks allowing themselves to dress up like the girls they spend the rest of the 364 days of the year judging, their douchey boyfriends wearing some variation on an ironic "Joe the Plumber" or 70's high school gym class getup, nerds in painstakingly applied Joker makeup, tons of pirates (still!), and lots and lots of Sarah Palins (both of the actual female and drag queen variety.) And each and every one of these people will curse themselves and say "damnit, I didn't think anybody else was going to think of this clever costume idea!"

Maybe it's because I'm just tired lately, maybe it's because I'm depressed, maybe it's because I'm too broke to justify spending money on a Halloween costume I'm only going to wear once, or maybe I'm just getting a little too old for Halloween (this theory, though, goes in cycles... I expect you get old enough to love Halloween all over again within a few years of 26.) Maybe I'm just too anxious about the election in four days to think about Halloween. Or maybe I'm just being cynical. I'm not excited in a way that makes me sad because I want to be excited, and I know that by Saturday morning, I will regret not doing anything other than drinking a bottle of whiskey. Which is probably my big plan for the night.

I had such big plans... I was going to be Daniel Plainview from "There Will Be Blood" and tell people in a crappy Daniel Day Lewis impression that "I am an Oil Man, and this is my Son and partner, H.W..." (My dog Reggie was going to be H.W.) But I didn't get it together, and now I'm just bitter and might have to murder a preacher with a bowling pin to make myself feel better about it. I also considered going as Short Round from "Temple of Doom" and making Reggie dress up as Indiana Jones. But for some reason, I just don't care. But I do care that I don't care, if that makes any sort of sense. I don't know why my passions have cooled, but they have, and it's a bit heartbreaking.

One thing I do know... it's not you Halloween, it's me. I've lost my passion, but you're still great. Maybe we can try it again next year, when I'm feeling like a fun person again.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Still Love Bill

This is brilliant. Bill Clinton talks about how great his presidency was and uses it as an argument to vote Obama because he'll be like him. I feel like there is nobody else on the planet who can turn stroking his own ego into a perfect political endorsement for a candidate who beat his wife in the primaries, but Clinton pulls it off. Which is why he's still the master. You just can't beat that charm.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This Is FUCKING Terrifying

This will probably give me nightmares tonight:

Does the narrator kind of sound like he's doing a bad impression of Bale's Batman, or is it just me?
Vote NO on 8. Seriously.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Must See Movies: "Synecdoche, New York" and "Let The Right One In"

I've been a bit down on 2008 as a year for quality film. Obviously, I loved "The Dark Knight" like it's my first child, and "Wall-E" holds a special place in my heart, despite its flaws. "Pineapple Express" will go down as one of the great cult stoner comedies, and might be the most enjoyable flick to come out of the Apatow laugh factory so far, while "In Bruges" was a small first feature with killer performances (that is not by any means a crappy "Pulp Fiction" ripoff that should have come out in the mid nineties, as the trailers seem to imply.) But the great movies have been few and far between in 2008 (a year I have personal issues with for other reasons, but we won't get into that here) and I've lately bemoaned the lack of good "indie" flicks and began to lose hope that I'd genuinely love enough movies this year to fill out an earnest top ten list before 2009 rolls around.
But this weekend turned out to be a pleasant surprise for adventurous film lovers everywhere, with two of the most unique films of the year from artists with very strong voices and points of view came out this weekend, restoring my ever renewable excitement for the medium all over again.

"Let The Right One In"

A shivery yet sweet adolescent vampire romance, "Let the Right One In" tells the unique tale of a lonely, picked upon Swedish boy who falls in love with the new girl in town... who just happens to drink blood and have an aversion to the daylight. This movie is haunting, mysterious, earnest and deeply felt while not ever sacrificing the chills and gore that make for a great fright flick. The whole thing is just gorgeously crafted by Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson, who displays consummate control of his craft in telling this strange and strangely moving little fairy tale. It's also really darkly funny in a lot of ways. A must see for anyone who loves horror flicks. Check it out before its ruined by the planned American remake (which is set to be directed by Matt Reeves, who helmed "Cloverfield," which I liked quite a bit, but still.)

"Synecdoche, New York."

A lovely, confounding, sad, funny, epic, dense, self indulgent, messy, ambitious, heartbreaking, honest, and deeply personal directorial debut from Charlie Kaufman, the singular artist behind the screenplays for (in order of increasing genius,) "Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation," and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." "Synecdoche" tells the story of a self loathing playwright (is there any other kind?) played by (probably the best actor working today) Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is dumped by his aritst wife (Catherine Keener, at her sharpest and most bitterly sarcastic,) and wins a "genius grant" that starts him on an obsessive quest to create a massive theater piece that obsessively recreates his life to the very smallest details. Eventually, the play has grown to include plays within plays within plays, and cities within cities within cities, and lives within lives within lives, and so on and on and on in a self reflexive maze that becomes dizzying to unravel. Kaufman bares his soul and puts all his pet obsessions and themes- artistic and personal identity, fear of death, narrative puzzles, the meaning of life, romantic failure, and many more-- on the line with this hugely ambitious film. One of the most amazing things about the "Synecdoche" is that it's the work of a fist time director... with a relatively small $20 million budget, Kaufman impresses with his confident work with the camera and (more importantly) with the great cast of actors he has assembled (this movie has a huge group of great parts for some of the best film actresses working today, including Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Hope Davis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and the always wonderful and under appreciated Dianne Wiest, who is brilliant and heartbreaking here.) The movie's hero sometimes gets lost in his own wanderings, but the film really doesn't... it may sometimes feel like it's a bit offtrack, but I'm pretty sure Kaufman knew exactly where he was going with every little scene and choice, no matter how strange or disconnected it may seem on first viewing. This is a challenging yet engrossing film that's been knocking around in my head since I first saw it, and it's ultimately about something really simple and real. I'll let the more eloquent film critic Manohla Dargis of The New York Times express it better than I could have with this quote:
Despite its slippery way with time and space and narrative and Mr. Kaufman’s controlled grasp of the medium, “Synecdoche, New York” is as much a cry from the heart as it is an assertion of creative consciousness. It’s extravagantly conceptual but also tethered to the here and now, which is why, for all its flights of fancy, worlds within worlds and agonies upon agonies, it comes down hard for living in the world with real, breathing, embracing bodies pressed against other bodies. To be here now, alive in the world as it is rather than as we imagine it to be, seems a terribly simple idea, yet it’s also the only idea worth the fuss, the anxiety of influence and all the messy rest, a lesson hard won for Caden. Life is a dream, but only for sleepers.
"Synecdoche, New York" may be a little too self indulgent at times, it may go down a few plot dead ends that seem unsatisfying at first, it may not make perfect sense no matter how much you think about all the ideas in Kaufman's breathtaking directorial debut... but like the work of Fellinni, Allen, Lynch, and other major film artists that Kaufman is clearly influenced by with "Synecdoche, New York," it's true in a way that easier to digest movies Hollywood movies aren't. See it, then see it with me when I go to see it again.
It's also probably a pretty cool movie to watch while stoned.

This Is A Good Start, But...

...there are so many more moments that could have been included in this compilation of scenes from what might be the worst movie ever released by a major studio.

"What? No!"
-Mark Wahlberg in "The Happening."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stop The Madness!

“I’d rather eat my own testicles than reform The Smiths — and that’s saying something coming from a vegetarian.”- Morrissey

Every single year, there is another rumor that my favorite band of all time, The Smiths, are reuniting. And every year, just as quickly, the rumors are refuted.
Despite knowing deep down it's not going to happen, I start looking into how soon it will be before I can buy tickets to Coachella, start figuring out what I have to do be up front and center for the show, start believing. I just have one request... Please, Please, Please... stop with these rumors if there is no truth to them. If it will ever happen, I'm all for it. But the famously eccentric Morrissey holds his grudges deeply (as evidenced by the quote at the top of this post) and certainly doesn't need the money, no matter how much of it is being offered. So just stop the annual Smiths reunion rumor until there is something real to report and an actual reason to hope... lord knows, it would be the first time.

This Is Way Better Than Oliver Stone's "W."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

John McCain: The George Lucas of Politics

Desperately searching for blog post topics, I came upon the metaphor that John McCain, in his quite bizarre and desperate presidential run, has become the George Lucas of the political scene... out of touch and angry when criticized for being so. So, in my need to fill the Interwebs with more political content, what follows is my reasoning for said argument. You may find it a bit thin, but my friend did a funny photoshop for the thesis after I pitched it to him, so here's the blog post that goes along with it...

1.) GEORGE LUCAS CONSIDERS HIMSELF A MAVERICK, TOO: Lucas prides himself on operating outside the Hollywood system, self funding his "Star Wars" prequel trilogy and producing all three films far from the dreaded Sarlacc Pit that is Los Angeles. The only problem is, Lucas isn't doing something better than what Hollywood does... he's just isolated himself and lost touch with everything, creating some disastrously bad work in the process. The Hollywood system, like the one in Washington, may be "broken," but George Lucas sure can't fix it. Some fresh blood from young artists with great vision and new ideas are the elements needed to reinvigorate the movie biz. Sorta like what's going on in this election cycle.

2.) LUCAS HAS BETRAYED EVERYTHING PEOPLE ONCE LOVED ABOUT HIM: "Star Wars" was never "The Godfather," but the original trilogy had lightness, fun, invention, and imagination. The new trilogy is slow and ponderous and awkward and ugly and shot in front of green screens, creating some of the most unwatchably stiff performances by very good actors in screen history (kinda like McCain's debate performances... bah DUM!) The magic that his fans once believed in is totally gone, and he doesn't understand that.

3.) AND HIS FANS CRITICIZING HIM FOR BETRAYING EVERYTHING THEY LOVED ABOUT HIM JUST MAKES HIM DEFENSIVE: Like McCain, Lucas received a lot of criticism for his recent work. But instead of thinking about what his fans who made him a billionaire were trying to communicate him, he angrily bad mouthed the people who got him where he was in life to the press. Before "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" even came out, Lucas told an interviewer that "We're gonna have a bunch of angry people saying, ''You're a bunch of a--holes, you should never have done this. You've ruined my life forever. I loved Indiana Jones so much and now it's ruined.'' Well guess what, George? Most of your fans do think you ruined the franchise with CG monkeys and aliens and, the worst crime of all, an extremely slow, overly complex, and boring story... a story which you insisted on telling even when Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford clearly hated the idea. Maybe you could stop being so stubborn and set in your ways and look at what's going on around you and realize the reason people don't like your work is that it's not what people expect of someone with your track record. Instead of getting defensive, do better and live up to the high expectations you've earned over your (once) illustrious career.

4.) JAR JAR BINKS IS STUPID AND INEXPERIENCED: I'm stretching here for sure, but does no one else see the similarities between Sarah Palin and the much hated Jar Jar? I think it's mostly the annoying voices...

And that, George Lucas, is why Barack Obama is winning.

Here's the slightly disturbing photoshop job, made by my friend Mike Consiglio:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Holy Obama, Batman!

This is too perfect. I thought "The Dark Knight" was the best Batman stuff ever put on film, then I saw this prescient debate scene. I always thought Penguin was more like Cheney than McCain, but this makes sense.

I'm voting Batman 08.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Animation Nerds, Rejoice

The "Sleeping Beauty" 50th anniversary Blu Ray drops in stores tomorrow, with tons of cool internet connected bells and whistles. I've seen some previews of this baby... the picture looks gorgeous and the features are going to be awesome. Anyone with a BluRay player and a love of animation, or just film history in general, should pick this up tomorrow. Don't worry... buying a Disney movie about a princess does not make you "gay." There is a cool dragon in "Sleeping Beauty," after all.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Magic In Paradise

My friends got married in Hawaii and invited me along to their destination wedding in paradise. I was too broke to go, but I went anyway. I'm exceedingly glad I did.

Followers of the blog will know that 2008 has been a bit rough on me. I was dumped back in January, couch surfed for a couple months in the summer, and moved in to a small studio apartment with my dog in August. I still don't feel fully moved in... all I have in my fridge right now is a Brita filter and a half drunk bottle of Rose'. That's right, living large.

So you can see why going to Hawaii felt like a necessary, transformative, and relaxing idea, despite the fact that I could not actually afford to go and be a responsible adult at the same time. I was looking for a "Sarah Marshall"-esque Hawaii experience, damnit, so who cared if I didn't have, you know, money?

I arrived in Kauai before everyone in the wedding party... including the bride and groom. I was actually alone in Hawaii for more than 24 hours... but I know, boo hoo, right? Poor me. I laid out on the beach and floated in the rocky part of the ocean, getting badly sunburned and cut on one of the rocks but feeling very relaxed overall. And the delicious Mai Tais at the nearby restaurant didn't hurt, either.

When my friends got into town, we really got to see more of the island. We drove to a river where we went Kayaking, hiking, swimming under a gorgeous waterfall, and cliff jumping. It was an awesome Hawaii adventure, where I once again got horribly sunburned.

The next day was the wedding day, and we spent the morning swimming near our hotel in the ocean... with sea turtles. Yeah, fucking awesomely large and old Sea Turtles, who would just swim up to us and let us touch them without getting too annoyed. When they popped their heads to get a breath of air, they made the funniest puffing sound and have this funny old man look on their faces. Clearly, these creatures had some sort of wisdom of the sea to impart, and my close encounters with sea turtles was the most magical part of the trip, by far. Even though I got horribly sunburned again.

The wedding was beautiful, informal as can be with everyone wearing Hawaiian shirts and Leis (which was the only place I got Leied. I always thought that Hawaii was more Lei crazy, that I'd get one right off the plane, when I got in a cab, when I got out of the shower, etc. This was not the case, though people were wearing them everywhere and making me wonder where they'd gotten them. Maybe it's just another sign of apocalyptically bad economy that they don't just give Leis out willy nilly anymore. What a tragedy.) The officiant was a funny old hippy who said "God, you're awesome," and seemed to be thanking the lord for his choice Maui Wowie. That's the kind of chill religion I can't object to. And the reception was great, as we were overloaded with an unending variety of delicious appetizers.

The day before we flew out of town, my friends and I walked over to the nearby shopping center and ate at Puka Dog, which serves amazing hot dogs covered in tropical flavored relish and Hawaiian style sweet mustard. I mean, these dogs were outrageous, and maybe only second to the sea turtles to win the title of most awesome thing about Hawaii (and Kayaking was awesome... I'm not criticizing the Kayaking trip, I'm just trying to express how fucking good the Puka Dogs were.) Against my better judgment, I had two dogs for lunch with their amazing Mango relish. Two dogs is way too much for any one man, but just look at these things:

Don't judge me. You'd have a second one too, if you were leaving town that day.

Anyway, the trip was too brief, and I wish I could have spent more time exploring the rest of Kauai's many beaches and checking out some of the other islands. But I know I'll go back one day. For now, my four days in Hawaii served their purpose... to get me out of my world for a little bit, to break me free of my worries, to let me relax for once after a year that has been fraught with tension, and to just float away and escape. I came back horribly sunburned but refreshed, and now I can dream easier of memories of the island (and those amazing Puka Dogs) instead of worrying about life as much.

Really, Hollywood? Really?

Okay, so this is pretty ripe for parody:

I mean, I appreciate the sentiment, Hollywood. The youth of America really needs to finally get motivated and participate in the most important election in decades. But man, a lot of these celebs come off as archly condescending in a way that will clearly turn a lot of people off. I mean, do people think Halle Barry telling them what to do will make them vote? Leo DiCaprio, in particular, is in grave danger of becoming the ultimate in Hollywood smugness. The guy seems to take himself way too seriously in the last few years. He's worked with some great directors lately, but man does he need a comedy, and bad. Get this man a Judd Apatow script.
I do think Kevin Bacon trying to get Kyra Sedgwick to leave was kind of a funny moment though.

I Can't Stop Posting Videos From Palin's Couric Interview

When Couric asks her about other supreme court cases, her response is almost at a level of Ricky Gervaisian awkwardness.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Well, Look Who's Growing Some Balls...

A democratic Presidential nominee who fights back strongly against slimy GOP attacks? This is a new concept.

S-O-U-T-H-E-R-N! C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A!

Soooouthern Caaaaaalifoooooornia!

Tina Fey FTW

This weekend's SNL season premiere got huge ratings, but was mostly a bust verging on disaster. Michael Phelps may be an amazing athlete and American hero, but actor he is not. Phelps was squinting at the cue cards all night and misspoke often, and his joke delivery was wooden. None of this is really a slam on Phelps... he's not supposed to be funny. That's not his job. But SNL really needs to stop booking athlete guest hosts... other than the funny and charismatic Peyton Manning.
But the season premiere did have one highlight... Tina Fey's much buzzed about return in which she played lookalike/ Republican VP nominee/ joke Sarah Palin. And, as a bonus, the incredible Amy Poehler joined her as Hillary Clinton. It's great, and the type of sharp political stuff SNL needs to be doing right now. Hopefully Fey (who has her hands very full starring in, producing, writing, and writing the amazing, Emmy winning "30 Rock,) will return a few more times to perform her excellent and hilarious Palin impression.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another Political Blog Post

And you all thought this was a pop culture blog, didn't you?

I'm deeply, deeply concerned over the way the election seems to be swinging in the last two weeks. The dems had a great convention, but then all of the sudden this game changer comes out of Alaska, and the Republican base has been "re-energized." I felt shocked when McCain picked the totally unqualified and terrifyingly right wing Palin as his running mate while he still yammered on about Obama's lack of experience. I thought people would reject her, especially Hillary supporters who could only see her being picked as a deeply cynical choice by McCain. And watching John McCain's rambling and nearly incoherent acceptance speech at the RNC, I thought there was no way McCain was still in this election.

But I was wrong. Many polls have Obama and McCain tied, with some of them showing McCain with a small lead. Obama still has an advantage in the electoral college polls, but some if too many of those key swing states turn red, we're in trouble. So yeah, I'm scared.

I can't imagine another four to eight years of a Republican White House. Why the hell can't we close this thing? We have a candidate who has inspired the youth, tons of registered democrats, and the worst president in history leaving office representing the other team. The economy is way down, the war in Iraq is still being fought after five long years, and McCain hasn't even said two words to describe how he plans to fix this mess we're in. So why is he up in the polls?

We're back to that same old, disgusting, Rovian mud slinging politics again. Tactics that twists a perfectly legitimate bit of legislation that encourages informing kindergarteners about how to protect themselves from predators into "comprehensive sex education." Strategy that includes using lightly critical quotes directed at Obama from the same editorials that slam McCain. The same politics that a guy who got out of fighting in Vietnam used to defeat a Vietnam hero by implying that maybe he was not that much of a hero, maybe sort of. Tactics that President Bush used to defeat... John McCain in the primaries eight years ago. Tactics that McCain claims he was above. This is not a "maverick." This is not someone who will "bring change to Washington." This is just another case of a politician who is so desperate that he's willing to stoop to boldfaced lies and ugly smears to win. But the sad part is that it's working, again.

Barack Obama needs to stand up now and not wimpily let himself get "swift boated" like John Kerry. He needs to rise above McCain's ugly tactics and call him out on it and prove that he's tough and will not be pushed around. He needs to stand up in front of the country and say, with conviction, "these ads are wrong and shameful. They are lies, and John McCain's campaign has become desperate to win at all costs, without ever saying one word about the actual issues that are important to all Americans. Bush did this to him 8 years ago and now he's stooped to the same level of nasty politics that he claimed to loathe. Enough. He can't talk about change and go back to Karl Rove's playbook. I am the only candidate capable of change. John McCain has proven that in the last, very pathetic week of his campaign."

Get up there next week, Barack, and do it. After you shoot down their pathetic and out line attacks, take back the reigns of the message of this campaign. Take back the word change for yourself and your party. I don't want to wait four years for you to prove that you have balls, as John Kerry finally did at the DNC two weeks ago. Show the country right now that you're a leader that can stand up to bullies. And show them that that's all McCain/ Palin are... just a couple of schoolyard bullies.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hi, Debra. Go Fuck Yourself.

What's wrong with people like this? Experience is important, but not extending the policies of the worst president ever is more important, isn't it?

And I'm sure Hilary Clinton wouldn't appreciate you voting for McCain just to make a point on her behalf, Debra. Obama should have picked Hilary as his running mate to unite the fractured party (while the candidate of change instead picked an old white guy to fill out his ticket... how brave.) But he didn't choose her and she lost the primary. Can we move on and elect a democrat to try and fix the idiocy of the last eight years already?

Sigh. America.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Night Is Darkest Before Dawn: "The Dark Knight's" Full On Cultural Moment

Joker Stare
"The Dark Knight" has already grossed over $222 million in six days. It has smashed every record in the books. Biggest opening weekend ever. Fastest movie to $200 million. Biggest first five days in release ever. Biggest six days in release ever. It nearly broke the record for biggest single Wednesday gross of all time, missing "Men In Black II's" mark of $18,599,621 by a mere few hundred thousand dollars. And "MIBII" opened on a Wednesday, while "Dark Knight" has been out for almost a week.

The weekday grosses are out of control... $24 million on a Monday, another $20 million on Tuesday, and just over $18 million on a Wednesday. Any of these marks are great OPENING DAY numbers.

IMAX screenings in both New York and LA are sold out solid through the week and weekend, and might not be available for about two weeks. People are still lining up around the block for their fix of the movie, and it's currently rated as the number one movie of all time as rated by IMDB users.

Batman, ladies and gentlemen, is officially "bigger than Jesus."

"The Dark Knight" is experiencing a full on cultural moment that no film has enjoyed since at least "The Passion." That movie made a ton of money and got everyone talking and debating, but as many people were talking about the film to criticize its supposedly stereotypical depiction of Jews, over reliance on violence, and writer/ director/ former superstar Mel Gibson's bizarre behavior as people who actually liked and were moved by the film. "Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" (why didn't we realize how bad it was going to be based on the fucking title nine years ago,) was the only thing the media could talk about before its release, and if 9/11 had happened the same weekend that "Star Wars" had come out, it still probably would have been given less coverage due to Jedi hype. But then the movie sucked, and everyone still saw it and talked about it, but "Dark Knight" will probably surpass that movie's gross in a week or two. No, you have to look back to "Titanic" and "Jurassic Park" for movies that really got audience's blood pumping and talking. Everywhere I go, people are buzzing about Batman.

I haven't seen the country so behind a movie in a long while. And a truly dark and disturbing one at that. I felt like this kind of thing was dead, now that there are so many screens showing the same movie ("Dark Knight" played on a record number of screens, yet tickets were still scarce everyhwhere this past weekend,) and so many people are buying their tickets online (myself included.) So what's the deal behind this amazing cultural moment?

Clearly, Heath Ledger's tragic death before the movie's release created more interest in the film, and tons of free media coverage, than the studio ever expected. And the fact that people have been talking about his work as The Joker and buzzing about a possible (and richly deserved) posthumous Oscar nomination drove curiosity through the roof. The fact that his last film was a big mainstream movie as well helped a lot... if "Brokeback Mountain" had been Ledger's final film, it's not as if middle America would have lined up to see him play a gay cowboy. But Heath's remarkable performance isn't enough to explain the film's unrelenting success. There's more to "Dark Knight's" appeal than morbid curiosity.

My geeky friends and I are not the only people who love Batman. Everyone loves The Caped Crusader. He's arguably the most popular super hero in existence... Spidey has always been huge, and who doesn't know Superman, but Batsy might, at this point, be the best known and loved hero of them all. But why didn't "Begins" make more when it came out, you ask?


Love of Batman fails to explain why "Dark Knight" did three times the business that "Batman Begins" did three summers ago during its opening weekend. The problem was, pre "Begins," Batman movies had fallen on hard times. "Batman and Robin," Joel Schumacher's abortion of the franchise, is considered by many to be one of the worst movies of all time (in a hilariously bad way... Ahnuld's Mr. Freeze is unbelievable to behold, making him possibly the second most memorable big screen Bat-baddie... just for all the wrong reasons.) So even though "Batman Begins" made less than "Dark Knight" has already grossed in just six days, it was a well liked movie, and people who didn't see it in theaters saw it on DVD, getting them pumped and primed for the next one. I think that non film people were a bit confused and put off by the series relaunch, and still had bad taste in their mouths from "B and R." Only the true fan boys understood that Nolan was attempting to redeem the character and franchise.

Even subtracting the Ledger factor, Joker vs Batman might be the most well known villain/ hero standoff in the history of the genre. Bringing The Joker in to the second film was a total master stroke, especially when Nolan teased the audience with the reveal that he would appear in "Dark Knight..." in the very last scene of "Begins." Because there is nothing more iconic than a clown facing off against a Bat. Or something.

Pulling the Joker Card

Lost in all the praise that Heath is receiving is Christian Bale's improved performance as Batman/ Bruce Wayne after his already excellent turn in "Begins." People loved his Batman, and everyone was pumped to see him in the role again.


Another stroke of genius from the studio... for anyone who cared to go down the rabbit hole, WB put out an excellent viral campaign that implied The Joker was effing with everyone on the Internet, sending fanboys into a frenzy that infected other, non geeks who just like Batman. That's why they call it "viral," I guess.

"DK" is unequivocally fucking great. The movie is epic, dark, legitimately terrifying, intelligent, and fucking kick ass. Every time I've seen it (two and a half and counting,) the movie plays the audience like a fiddle, the tension rising at the scary sections, the nervous laughter filled the theater with all of the Joker's scary/ funny antics, and people cheered at the end (and many teared up a bit, including, ahem, myself.) People are talking about the movie after they see it. They're discussing its themes, ideas, moments that disturbed them, and yeah, the awesome scene where Batman on a motorcycle faces down the Joker in a truck. It's the most ambitious summer blockbuster ever made, and it goes way beyond the type of fun yet disposable entertainment we usually get when the weather gets hot. This is a honest to God great movie, with Batman at the center of it.

This is a legitimately exciting time to be a fan of Batman and movies in general. I'm going to stop writing now, because I want to get out of here and jump in line to see it again, talk about it more, and just be part of this undeniable cultural phenomenon.

James Cameron is probably feeling a little nervous right now about the Caped Crusader catching a certain ship in the next few months.

Batman,Hong Kong

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Effing Knight

Batman Batpod

Remember me? Honestly, I don't either. I'm about to move into my own pad, so hopefully then I will start to blog again, with life updates galore and all the pop cultural insight the world (or two people who read it and have long since given up) has come to expect from this here blog.

But I can't move on in my life without giving "The Dark Knight" its due.

The latest Batman movie had the biggest opening of all time this past weekend, and it richly deserves every cent it makes. This is a movie created by filmmakers who really understand the Batman mythos, and who take it as seriously as it deserves to be taken.

It's also an amazing crime epic, a thoughtful film on terrorism and life in post 9/11 America, a psychological and philosophical study on human nature, a dark and disturbing look at madness, and kick ass Batman movie where the Caped Crusader rides a bad ass motorcycle and glides from skyscraper to skyscraper.

Heath Ledger's Joker will go down as one of the great screen villains of all time. If he doesn't take home a posthumous Oscar for his unhinged and unnerving performance, I just might give up. His Joker is, as many reviews have pointed out "a force of nature" that descends upon Batman's Gotham and makes it go crazy as he runs his own experiments in human psychology and forces all the characters into impossible ethical choices.

But Aaron Eckhart's tragic performance as doomed DA Harvey Dent is equally strong, though maybe not as in your (forgive the expression) face. His story is actually the film's true through line, as Joker doesn't have a backstory or real arc (which is totally appropriate for the character and works brilliantly.)

Gary Oldman, as cop ally Jim Gordon, is astoundingly good as well, giving a speech that will break your heart and give you chills at an important moment. And what else can be said about Michael Caine, who takes the role of Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred, to places nobody thought possible.

And then there's Bale, who plays Batman/ Bruce Wayne with more intensity than any actor before him. This is the movie all fans of Batman have been waiting for for a very, very long time.

"The Dark Knight" is the best movie of the year so far by leaps and bounds, and it's the best super hero movie ever made by a mile. It's a dark, heartbreaking, and brooding epic, and it makes other so called "dark" super hero movies look laughable. People die in this movie, and character's lives are ruined. This is a movie where none of the main characters come out unscathed by the film's events, and there is no happy or triumphant ending like the other films in this genre always have. But there is Batman at the end, so there is hope.

The final moments of the film are so powerful that I teared up and had chills running up and down my spine both times I've seen it. This is great cinema, without the caveat that it's "a great comic book movie" or a "great super hero movie" or even "a great action movie." No, this is a great movie, period. And as such, I may have new favorite movie of all time.

As The Joker says in his mindblowing first scene, "How about a magic trick?" This whole movie is a magic trick of the highest order, and director Christopher Nolan deserves to be elevated to the elite status of God among geeks after his work on this, I'll just go ahead and say it, masterpiece.
Heather Ledger as The Joker,Christian Bale as Batman

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Fortune And Glory

The new Indy trailer came out this weekend, attached to newly minted blockbuster "Iron Man." All I can say, after watching the trailer over and over and comparing it to the underwhelming teaser, is... fuck yeah, that's more like it.

I'm still not convinced about Shia.
It's not the years. It's the mileage.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Let The Summer Movie Shenanigans Begin!

All I need to say about summer movies, I've said before in a previous post from two years ago.

Tis the season for big dumb summer blockbusters, and 2008 promises to be a good one when it comes to that type of movie. "Iron Man" hits screens everywhere today, launching Hollywood's assault on our senses and wallets, in a season that will include a new Indiana Jones movie, a new vision of the Joker in a sequel to an excellent Batman flick, a Kung Fu fighting Panda, stoners on the run from killers in what is sure to be another Apatow hit, and a little Pixar robot that could just be the biggest hit of them all. And maybe some of these big dumb summer blockbusters might not be so dumb after all... the reviews for "Iron Man" are pretty incredible, and great buzz is building for a lot of the biggest blockbusters of the season, some of which are made by real filmmakers and not just Michael Bay hacks... king of Hollywood Steven Spielberg, Chris Nolan, indie darling David Gordon Green, and "Finding Nemo's" Andrew Stanton all have big movies coming out this summer.

Maybe this will be the summer that the little kid in all of us have been dreaming about. Or maybe we'll just get to see a few buildings blow up real good.

Either way, pass me the popcorn.

Lost Watch: Jacked

Episode Title: Something Nice Back Home
Air Date: May 1, 2008

It seems like it's been awhile since the masterminds behind "Lost" gave us an episode about how Jack is a control freak martyr more obsessed with helping others than helping himself who is totally incapable of happiness... but they corrected that mistake last night with the latest episode. I was beginning to forget all that, what with all the amazing character reveals about Benjamin and mind blowing plot twists that have advanced the story in amazing new ways in the last few weeks.

Alright, I'll stop complaining and try to think of "Something Nice Back Home" as a moment for all of us fans to catch our breath after the roller coaster Ben To The Future episode from last week.

Jack gets sick and, just like Jack, tries to pretend everything is fine. When Juliet presses him, she discovers he needs an emergency procedure to have his appendix removed. Jack, being a stubborn control freak, insists on staying awake for the surgery, and wants Kate to sit in on the procedure and hold up a mirror... to make sure that Juliet is performing the procedure right. But even Jack can't take it, and they put him under and make Kate leave. Jack, unsurprisingly, survives.

The most intriguing part of the on island drama, which feels like the kind of conflict that would have happened early in the show's run, before they got so deep into the mythology, was when Rose tells Bernard she's worried about the reason that Jack got sick... because, as she says (and knows from personal experience,) people get better on the island, not sicker. Has Jack "angered the gods" as Bernard puts it? Or is the island pissed at him for trying to get the survivors off of it? Also worth noting are the scenes between Jin and Sun and freighter people Charlotte and Daniel. Jin realizes that Charlotte can speak Korean after he sees her listening to them, and he tells her that she must get Sun off the island when the helicopter comes back... or he will hurt her friend Daniel, who she clearly has feelings for (despite his weirdo crazy scientist nature.)

The more interesting part of the episode was the flash forwards, where we learn that Jack and Kate are living together... and seem to be deeply in love (and doing it a lot, heh heh.) The flash forward even starts with Jack reading to little Aaron... from "Alice in Wonderland," no less. But Jack and Kate's seeming domestic bliss can't last for long, because, let's face it, it's Jack Shepherd and Kate Austen we're talking about here. Besides the flash forwards clearly take place between Kate's trial episode, when she insisted that he has to be able to deal with baby Aaron if he wants to be with her, and the first flash forward episode featuring crazy, unconvincing beard sporting, pill popping Jack. Last night's episode begins to show how well adjusted post island Jack became that out of his mind Jack.

Jack visits Hurley in the mental institution, who tells him that Charlie visits him often... and that he has a message for Jack, that "you're not supposed to raise him." Hurley's spooky warning is an echo from the creepy psychic who gave Claire the same warning in season one, that only she can raise her baby, and proves the writers are finally starting to tie every little story string together. Even though he tells Hurley to take his meds, Jack is clearly shaken by Hurley's words... and his warning, that "someone is going to visit you soon."

Jack proposes to Kate, and she accepts, but we know that's not gonna last... he still has yet to become crazy bearded Jack who hangs out at the airport and flies around the world on Oceanic planes "hoping they will crash." He starts to become suspicious of her when he overhears her on a phone call and she seems to be lying about who she was talking to.

Jack really starts to lose it when Hurley's promise about a visitor comes true... when Jack sees his dad in the hospital waiting room. Jack, afraid that he is truly losing his mind, asks a fellow doctor to write him a prescription for anti-depression meds... and so Dr. Jack Shepherd's love affair with pills begins.

After much badgering, Kate admits she was fulfilling a promise to Sawyer, which obviously pisses the good doctor off, and leads to the end of their domestic bliss... and the beginning of Jack's new found fondness for alcoholic beverages. The nasty breakup fight ends with Kate telling Jack she doesn't want him around "her son," which Jack angrily responds to by saying "your son? He's not even related to you!" So obviously Jack has figured out that Claire was his sister... making Jack Aaron's uncle, which explains a lot why he was so hesitant to accept him in order to be with the woman he loves.

And what of our Claire-Bear? In the episodes "B" story (or "C" story, depending on if you count the on island and flash forward stuff as "A" and "B" stories... I'm going to stop being a screenwriting structure nerd and move on....) Sawyer, Ghostbuster Miles, and Claire carrying baby Aaron are heading back to the beach after deserting team Locke. Not much happens to them on their little journey... Sawyer protectively tells Miles to stay away from Claire, and they hide in the bushes when the mercenaries who attacked Ben in last week's episode walk by. But the episode ends with some juicy Claire stuff... her father (and Jack's father, let's not forget, who is supposed to be dead, let's not forget that either,) shows up in the middle of the night. In the morning, Sawyer wakes to discover Claire and Aaron are gone... and Miles tells him that "they wandered off into the jungle" When Sawyer asks why he let her go off in the jungle alone, Miles tells him they weren't alone... that she was with someone she called "dad." Sawyer runs to the sound of a crying baby... and discovers an abandoned Aaron sitting under a tree.

Claire seems pretty much gone with the wind at this point, and her mysterious disappearance will probably not be resolved by the time the Oceanic 6 leave the island, seeing as her baby leaves and she doesn't.

So, we're left with an episode that is a bit slower, and a bit heavier on character development than it is on plot and story (though there is plenty of good set up stuff.) Maybe we didn't need another Jack episode, but it was interesting to see Jack and Kate finally make a go of it as a couple... and to see them predictably fail at it. And from the promos for next week's episode, it looks like we're finally really going to get to meet Jacob, the one guy Ben claims he takes orders from, so there's really no reason to worry about the state of "Lost." Though I probably don't need any more reminders that Jack is a control freak martyr more obsessed with helping others than helping himself who is totally incapable of happiness. I think that base is well covered at this point.