Monday, January 09, 2006

A few thumbnails and a finger.

Saw Gilliam's The Brother's Grimm. Both the lovely wife and I enjoyed it. The critics said it was kind of a mess, and it isn't the clean fantasy we've come to expect, but I kinda liked the hoary way it got around to telling its story. Gilliam is always kinda baroque, and I don't think he needs to fix that. Warning: There are pretty horrific parts in this thing, 90 proof nightmare fuel, so do pay attention to the PG-13 rating.

And speaking of the PG-13 rating, I once again ignored it to my peril, earning yet another black mark in the "bad parent" column. I took MPC1, who's 9, to see the latest retread of King Kong. We had to leave shortly after icky things consume half the crew, though it was the nasty looking Skull Island tribe that did in the MPC1. Friends: She was so frightened she was literally shaking as we left the theatre. That's gonna wake me up at night when I'm having those dark teatimes of the soul. I will not again subject my children to a PG-13 movie without having previewed it first.

Btw, critics and various other media-heads are wondering why KK isn't killing at the box office, so I'm here to tell you why: We've seen it. Yes. Pretty much a tribe gives a blonde to a giant gorilla, who is then captured and taken to New Yawk to be displayed like a freak, so he freaks, climbs a big building and ends up falling down, where he leaves quite the splash. The end. Yeah, this version does that whole cha-cha best of all, very realistic and clever, but we've moved on to the twist, or perhaps the pogo, thanks. (Also, we've seen too many folks fall from buildings in New Yerk to fill a few lifetimes, so I think for many this is working against it on a subconscious level.)

I experienced the "I've been here before" thing again while taking in the stage version of Little Shop of Horrors, which is superior to either movie, of course. Had I come into this play cold, it would've been on my top 10 list for life probably. I still rilly enjoyed it - the music is fantastic, and having a "greek chorus" doo-wop singing trio to move the story along is pure genius (the guys who wrote it went on to do the songs for most of Disney's modern animated hits, like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast). The spectacle of the huge plant on stage is something else, too. But, darnit, I wish I'd been innocent going in. I'd have had to leave sockless.

Caught The Wedding Crashers finally. It's cute. It's also a little long and maudlin if you ask me. Again, we've seen the "I've lied so much, how can I tell ____ the truth now that I love her (or him)" shtick done before - and better, even. Worth a look, but don't expect it to be revelatory (as the next film I mention is). I do have to admit enjoying the concept of picking up women (or are they picking us up?) at weddings, though, because it's very true. Most of my buddies got married in the space of about three years, and as one of the last to marry, I attended all of their weddings as a single guy. About the second wedding it dawned on me that once the unmarried young women got a couple drinks in them at the reception, it was often just a matter of putting yourself in their way - literally. I still don't know what the mechanism is, but weddings just get the lovely hopefuls in a randy mood. We young guys pretty much considered them the demarcation of the loss of yet another hanging buddy.

The 40-year-old Virgin is one of the more unique and funny movies to come along in a while. See it with some friends if you can. This one, btw, is a hard "R" - and purely due to dialogue. Even so, while some of the lines are shocking, in context they didn't offend even the more sensitive souls amongst the group I watched it with. Suffice to say, most everyone will like this. The ending is brilliant, too.

I've abandoned a bunch of books lately.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac Mccarthy. I hated hated hated the writing style. Couldn't get past page 50. I have a deep loathing of any and all attempts by a smart person trying to write as though they were an uneducated and borderline retarded hick. They ALWAYS get it wrong, because even the stupidest people you know usually have a sort of organic intelligence where if you get them to tell you their story, you almost never think "what an idiot." (Reminds me of the lines in Desiderata: "listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story".) Well, I just couldn't get past the initial narrator being such a backwards fuck while being rather cagey about the situation he finds himself in. Bullshite deluxe is what it is. I cast it from me into the return chute.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. I started this one and felt the immediate joy I did when I began Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I loved the language, the dry humor, and the detailed painting of a character in a few swift sentences, but with each passing page that very strength grew to be tiresome. Also, both hop around through many characters, introducing them, before getting to the story proper. I've never liked that approach because it demands that the reader hold everyone in memory like a huge canasta hand until they appear later. I don't want to have to take notes.

I had picked it up because of the recommendation of Stephen King. The last few years in his "Entertainment Weekly" column he's given lists of his favorite songs, movies, and books from the year. The first two lists I've found useful, but this is the third year I've been stung by his literary suggestions, which surprises me. I had assumed that since I LOVE his writing, our tastes would be very similar. And they aren't; not even a little bit. I posit that if King were to contract some sort of amnesia, he wouldn't even recommend his own stuff were he to encounter it unknowingly.

Anyway, after I'd become acquainted enough with the characters, and realized I wasn't going to try to keep picking it up and feign interest, I hopped to the back to find out the solution to the nested mysteries that King had alluded to. Well hell, they were pretty freakin' obvious. The big sister killed the little sister because her dad was molesting her, causing her to lose her mind. And y'know what? I am growing very tired of sexual depravity being the engine of a plot. I've never liked it, but if done correctly, it can be powerful. Well, it has now seemingly entered the overused period of its existence as a plot device, like serial killers have been for a while. Meh.

"Scrubs", perhaps one of the best TV shows ever, is finally back, so I now have a show I actually look forward to - other than "Desperate Housewives," where I have a tragic crush on the redhead cutie, Bree.

This happiness ensues because of the dearth of good stuff to watch during the holidays. (Thank God for movie rentals.)

The only show I looked forward to was the Barbra Walters special on religion. I kinda dig her celebrity interviews because she usually has some sort of surprise nugget in there, and then there's the crying game, of course.

It started off promisingly enough. The Roman Catholic section was fair, if not a little spare. She didn't wallow in the recent scandals, which I appreciated. (To do so would be equivalent to every report on public schools dredging up Columbine and Mary Kay Letourneau (who married the student she molested upon release from prison).) The Jewish segment was decent, too - though she didn't delve into the various branches of Judaism, which would have been interesting. She was fair in showing Islam, by talking to an American Moslem who presented the hard to find "peaceful side" of Islam, and then a jailed terrorist who was looking forward to his orgy with his virgins in the afterlife for killing non-Moslems, particularly Jews. She predictably fawned all over the famous Dalai Lama for the Buddhism segment. He's a charming guy, and Buddhism is user friendly in that it doesn't ask you to believe anything that would get you in trouble at a cocktail party. Then, as usual, Protestantism was represented by the Evangelicals, my beloved fundies.

Judas on a Vespa.

And not just any fundies either, but the real loony ones we have Colorado Springs, CO. (It's hard to type when one eye is twitching in rage, btw.)

Researching the show for this post, I come to find out she's operated her whole life ignorant of religion.

Why is the general media of this country so freakin' clueless about traditional Protestant Christianity? It must be a more common question these days, because even Lileks, a Deist, does one of his fun takedowns regarding some of the silliness that results from this utter inability some have when it comes to grasping the reasons we believers do believe. (Kind of off the topic, here's another great takedown I discovered recently: Dave Marshall's review of the putrid The End of Faith by Sam Harris. Pwned baby!)

And, speaking of silliness from nonbelievers, it appears that there's a new show about an Episcopalian pastor called "The Book of Daniel." I've not seen it, nor am I likely to, but I was kinda floored by this description I came across:
You might say "Book of Daniel" is the gospel according to Jack Kenny, an unlikely auteur considering his resume: executive producer of the sketch-comedy series "Wanda at Large" and, before that, the creator of "Titus," producer of "Caroline in the City," and a staff writer on "Dave's World."

But looking to move into one-hour drama, he wrote a pilot script for "Book of Daniel" on spec as a writing sample, "in hopes I could get in some doors. Then it took on a life of its own."

A gay man raised in the Catholic Church, Kenny says he drew on the Wasp-y, emotionally guarded family of his life partner.

"Michael," he says of his mate with a dramatist's relish, "came from a world that is all about what is NOT said — the hidden meaning in the words and sentences."

Declaring he has never seen "7th Heaven" or "Joan of Arcadia" (a drama that had God revealing himself to a high school girl in a variety of human visions), Kenny insists his show isn't about religion.

"This is about a family," he says between bites during a hasty lunch break at the Queens studio where the series is shot. "The fact that Daniel is a priest is secondary. The church is the backdrop. This is no more about religion than 'Six Feet Under' was about mortuaries."


How have these folks not gotten the memo that religious people tend to take their respective faiths pretty seriously, and that using them as a convenient backdrop to a schmaltzy drama is going to offend - and this is just a swag here - MOST OF THE TARGET AUDIENCE?


Well, coming up I have a look at David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster, his latest collect of essays. Right now I have to trade frothing from the mouth with the froth of a cold one. Laters.

Real Live Preacher does a great takedown of "The Book of Daniel," now officially cancelled, and a great takedown of Christians who fret over shows like "Daniel." I will respectfully disagree with the Preacher on one point; if someone treats or uses something dear to you with disrespect, it's OK to not be happy about it. For instance, let's say someone you knew back in high school makes it in Hollywood and one night you tune in to discover his/her new show and it's called "Reasons Yo Mama Sucks," and the mama in question bears a very strong resemblance to your actual mom. I think that merits a tersely worded letter or blog posting.


The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

You can join Eudoxus in the King Kong doghouse. He rented the original for our weekly Family Nachos 'n' Movie Night, and left early to entertain a restless Offspring #2. Leaving me to watch the impressively graphic and grotesque (given the year of release) slaughter-of-the-villagers scene together with an increasingly horrified Offspring #1 (nine, like yours). She was still shaking when I turned it off. She's still having regular nightmares. Funny, the epic violence of LOTR didn't bother her at all; but writhing, screaming, individual persons being squished by a giant ape foot is just a little too much.

If you're looking for watchable family entertainment in an 'R' rating, we rented Merchant of Venice recently; Offspring #1 was Shylock in a theater class and we wanted to see how Pacino handled the trickier lines. Its rating is solely for above-the-waist female nudity; nothing she hasn't seen plenty of at La Leche meetings. There's a brief scene set in a brothel with transvestite male prostitutes, but it's not blatant and she had no clue what was going on. She loved it entirely. I recommend it for budding Shakespeareans.

Sleemoth said...

Love the housewives too. (I figured you'd like the most tightly wound one of the bunch!)

Check out the "Belief-O-Matic":

It was featured in the local rag. I came out a UU (no big surprise).

Yahmdallah said...

I'll check it out!

Oh, it's not her (character's) personality that I like; it's a physical thang. What a babe!

If I were going by personality, I'd go for Felicity Huffman's character. She's a hoot.

Glen said...

Evangelicals are colorful characters, which makes for good television. Mainstream Protestantism is boring, which makes for bad television. Plus, it's easier for a producer to find evangelicals who desperately want to make their case on television and are prepared to do so.

Regarding Dave Marshall's review, he seems to think it's necessary for a skeptic to debate and refute /every/ Christian philosopher, past and present, before reaching any conclusion. Applying that same attitude toward other areas where skepticism applies would suggest that we can't yet dismiss Bigfoot or UFOs or Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy so long as there exist people anywhere in the world willing to argue for their existence. At some point you reach diminishing returns. There are lots of apologetics out there, but they all make similar kinds of mistakes; having read a few of them, you don't need to read them all unless you're a real masochist. :-) (Me, I read Lewis and Josh; that was good enough).

Yahmdallah said...

Hmmm, that's not what I got from Mr. Marshall. I got that Harris' book tended to set up strawmen and didn't really address any (or at least very many) legitimate oppositions to his view. I don't think Marshall was suggesting he go through them ALL, but at least try to refute a couple of the good ones.

Anonymous said...

Yahm, there's a reason why Evangelicals are usually chosen to represent Protestantism. In fact, several reasons:

1) Evangelical churches are almost the only Protestant churches that are growing. This is true worldwide;

2) Evangelicals have a commitment to public engagement (both in politics and in proselitism) that puts them in the public eye more than other groups;

3) There are A LOT of Evangelicals. In the US they probably outnumber Catholics (depending how you define "Evangelical").

Who else would you choose to represent Protestants? Lutherans, with their aging and shrinking congregations? Anglicans, who appear to be headed for a major split? The Amish?

I'll grant that Protestants are a large and diverse group and that no matter which branch you pick you are leaving out major sectors of Christendom. But if you have to pick just one, Evangelicals are the obvious choice.