Thursday, April 27, 2006


Originally uploaded by Murmurmel.
This is ______ on so many levels...
Telling it like it is.

Sharon has a great post on the supposed origins of the name of "Easter" and other frustrations with revisionist fictional history.

And Michael also has a great post about the popcorn fart that is postmodernism.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Thumbnails on recent movie viewings

Capote - Mostly boring, but Hoffman's take was worthy of the Oscar. My father-in-law is from the same region of the country, and I noticed Hoffman got the body language and hand movements exactly right. Eerily so.

Thumbsucker - It's now official. I will never again waste time on a "small film" about "the little earthquakes" in our lives. This has the exact same problem that The Squid and the Whale, You and Me and Everyone We Know and Junebug did. The short version is none of these contain people I know. Or, they do, but these stories don't ever give us a reason to like these characters. Nearly everyone has something that makes them compelling, and none of these movies manage to do that. Fiction above all things should manage to invoke characters you care to spend a couple hours with. The one exception in this list was the adult leads in "You and Me", but it's undermined by the fact that we are shown the sex lives of all the children in the movie and nothing of the adults. As a matter of fact, all the movies mentioned here have children saying explicitly sexual things, which is a horrible trend. Screenwriters of the world: Cut it the hell out already. (Actually, I was not able to make it through Junebug, so I don't know if any of the children are used in that way. However, in fast-forwarding in order to see if there might be an interesting development, I noticed we're treated to a very pregnant woman masturbating. Perhaps the movie presented it in the proper context so that you felt something other than shame for the actress who had to do that scene, but I'll never know.)

Last Days - I think I'm off Gus Van Sant movies, too. Elephant was strangely compelling, and I didn't really enjoy the way the narrative was concluded, but commenters made me re-examine my expectations, and I'm now OK with how that movie played out. (I still prefer Douglas Coupland's take on the Columbine stuff: Hey Nostradamus!.) Last Days is unabashedly about Kurt Cobain's suicide, and as the title indicates, the days leading up to it. Where long meandering shots following characters around in Elephant really put you into the world of those high school kids, they distract in Last Days. Watching someone wander around stoned out of their gourd is boring when you're stoned yourself. It's excruciating when you're sitting in your living room (or a theatre) with nothing stronger than a Coke and some popcorn. I think we see the Cobain doppelganger stagger down the same grassy hill 3 separate times, comprising 15 minutes of the total running time. Hey Van Sant: At least thumb through this sometime, k?

Well, all those shitty movies (well, Capote wasn't shitty, just dull) where playing up against some pretty tough competition, because in and amongst viewings of those POS's, the lovely wife and I were enjoying the first season of Dead Like Me on DVD. THIS is how to tell a story. THIS is how to make characters, even nasty ones, gripping. THIS is how to do it, mang. We've pretty much stopped buying movies other than kid flicks that the progeny will watch a bunch of times, as we can barely find time to watch rentals these days, but we've decided that when prices come down, we're owning both seasons. Dead Like Me is a fantastic series, and further proof that TV writing is running circles around movie writing these days.


Hey, to put it another way:
"Low-end American narrative filmmaking is in crisis. I know, news flash, right? What I mean is that hardly anyone seems able to tell a well-constructed story anymore. Most younger filmmakers these days have no background in the old-fashioned narrative traditions, like literature or drama, let alone in the Freudian and/or Marxist theories of personality and society that underpinned them for most of the 20th century. Movies today come out of other areas of pop culture, whether that's music videos or photography or advertising or TV or just other movies.

"This isn't entirely a bad thing; it may not, in the long haul, be a bad thing at all. But it does result in a lot of lumpy little movies that might offer a visual sensibility, a consistent mood and some kind of philosophical or political message, but totally refuse to give you real characters interacting in some believable, dynamic real-world situation."
- Andrew O'Hehir of

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Must Movies

During the past couple weeks, movie list memes have been growing like mold on various blogs and mine is not immune to contagion.

There's something inherently boring about reading a stranger's list of "what I've read/seen/heard" because most of us only really care about he WE stack up against the list for either a fleeting moment of feeling superior or maybe we'll finally break down and get "Battleship Potemkin" from the library and surrender a night. Therefore, this is about YOU, not me.

So, if that didn't scare you off, here's my contribution to movielist memequest.

The Guardian came out with the top 50 movie adaptations according to them, and chimed in with what he's consumed.

Here's mine. M=seen the movie. B=read the book. My editorializing is in [brackets].

1. 1984 -MB-
2. Alice in Wonderland -M- [Tried the book, but Carroll's writing annoys me.]
3. American Psycho -MB-
4. Breakfast at Tiffany's -M-
5. Brighton Rock
6. Catch 22 -M- [Abandoned the book midway. I think it was seminal for its time, but has aged badly.]
7. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory -M-
8. A Clockwork Orange -MB-
9. Close Range (inc Brokeback Mountain) -B [just the short story]-
10. The Day of the Triffids [They're kidding, right? Isn't this a giant radioactive/alien monster movie?]
11. Devil in a Blue Dress [Now I must see this on this recommendation, as mentioned above.]
12. Different Seasons (inc The Shawshank Redemption) -MB-
13. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (aka Bladerunner) -MB- [The book has about as much in common with the movie as Tang does with Orange Juice.]
14. Doctor Zhivago -M- [My mom loved this movie. I fell asleep to it several times in the back seat of the car at the drive-in. It caused a pavlovian (interesting, MS Word's dictionary doesn't know "pavlovian") response where to this day I get drowsy if I see a frame of the flick or hear "Laura's Theme.")
15. Empire of the Sun -M- [I think. I remember a Spielbergian moppet looking up a war planes a lot.]
16. The English Patient -M- [I can't imagine the book could be more boring than the flick was, but I'm not about to find out.]
17. Fight Club -MB- [An amazingly faithful adaptation, actually.]
18. The French Lieutenant's Woman -M-
19. Get Shorty -M-
20. The Godfather -M-
21. Goldfinger -M-
22. Goodfellas -M- [This was a book? Who knew?]
23. Heart of Darkness (aka Apocalypse Now) -M-
24. The Hound of the Baskervilles -MB-
25. Jaws -MB-
26. The Jungle Book -MB-
27. A Kestrel for a Knave (aka Kes)
28. LA Confidential -M-
29. Les Liaisons Dangereuses -M-
30. Lolita -MB- [I found the Kubrick adaptation creepy before I read the book, but even moreso afterwards. Yes, it's a great novel, but reading about a child walking funny due to pain after being molested still curdles my yogurt.]
31. Lord of the Flies -MB-
32. The Maltese Falcon -M-
33. Oliver Twist -M-
34. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest -MB(PLAY)- [The play is actually more faithful to the book, but this is one case where perhaps the movie transcends its source material.]
35. Orlando
36. The Outsiders -MB- [Gotta admit it: Coppola has a knack for book adaptation. They've all rocked.]
37. Pride and Prejudice -B-
38. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
39. The Railway Children
40. Rebecca
41. The Remains of the Day -M-
42. Schindler's Ark (aka Schindler's List) -M-
43. Sin City -M-
44. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold -MB-
45. The Talented Mr. Ripley -M-
46. Tess of the D'Urbervilles -M-
47. Through a Glass Darkly
48. To Kill a Mockingbird -MB-
49. Trainspotting -M- [With deep regret. Almost a great movie, but dead baby jokes are kind of a deal-killer for me.]
50. The Vanishing -M-
51. Watership Down -M- [Couldn't finish this book either. I barely got through the cartoon.]

OK, I thought of one whilst writing comments above:
52. The World According to Garp. -MB- [An unfilmable book actually brought to life by the miraculous George Roy Hill. Besides Glenn Close and Robin Williams being perfect (and the beautifully sensitive handling of the death of a child), John Lithgow's transgendered football player is a snort. Hill also got close with "Slaughterhouse Five" but that IS an unfilmable book.]

On to bigger things: A "modern" list of movies that anyone who considers themselves an aficionado must see to claim the designation, according to Jim Emerson who has a blog on Roger Ebert's site. (How did he score THAT gig? As a fan of Ebert's, I'm envious.)

Bold means I've seen it. My gripes follow the list.

1. "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) Stanley Kubrick
2. "The 400 Blows" (1959) Francois Truffaut
3. "8 1/2" (1963) Federico Fellini
4. "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (1972) Werner Herzog
5. "Alien" (1979) Ridley Scott
6. "All About Eve" (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
7. "Annie Hall" (1977) Woody Allen
7a. "Apocalypse Now" (1979) Francis Ford Coppola [Added later by Emerson]
8. "Bambi" (1942) Disney
9. "Battleship Potemkin" (1925) Sergei Eisenstein
10. "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946) William Wyler
11. "The Big Red One" (1980) Samuel Fuller
12. "The Bicycle Thief" (1949) Vittorio De Sica
13. "The Big Sleep" (1946) Howard Hawks
14. "Blade Runner" (1982) Ridley Scott
15. "Blowup" (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni
16. "Blue Velvet" (1986) David Lynch
17. "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) Arthur Penn
18. "Breathless" (1959 Jean-Luc Godard
19. "Bringing Up Baby" (1938) Howard Hawks
20. "Carrie" (1975) Brian DePalma
21. "Casablanca" (1942) Michael Curtiz
22. "Un Chien Andalou" (1928) Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali
23. "Children of Paradise" / "Les Enfants du Paradis" (1945) Marcel Carne
24. "Chinatown" (1974) Roman Polanski
25. "Citizen Kane" (1941) Orson Welles
26. "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) Stanley Kubrick
27. "The Crying Game" (1992) Neil Jordan
28. "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) Robert Wise
29. "Days of Heaven" (1978) Terence Malick
30. "Dirty Harry" (1971) Don Siegel
31. "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972) Luis Bunuel
32. "Do the Right Thing" (1989 Spike Lee
33. "La Dolce Vita" (1960) Federico Fellini
34. "Double Indemnity" (1944) Billy Wilder
35. "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964) Stanley Kubrick
36. "Duck Soup" (1933) Leo McCarey
37. "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982) Steven Spielberg
38. "Easy Rider" (1969) Dennis Hopper
39. "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) Irvin Kershner
40. "The Exorcist" (1973) William Friedkin
41. "Fargo" (1995) Joel & Ethan Coen
42. "Fight Club" (1999) David Fincher
43. "Frankenstein" (1931) James Whale
44. "The General" (1927) Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman
45. "The Godfather," "The Godfather, Part II" (1972, 1974) Francis Ford Coppola
46. "Gone With the Wind" (1939) Victor Fleming
47. "GoodFellas" (1990) Martin Scorsese
48. "The Graduate" (1967) Mike Nichols
49. "Halloween" (1978) John Carpenter
50. "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) Richard Lester
51. "Intolerance" (1916) D.W. Griffith
52. "It's A Gift" (1934) Norman Z. McLeod
53. "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) Frank Capra
54. "Jaws" (1975) Steven Spielberg
55. "The Lady Eve" (1941) Preston Sturges
56. "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) David Lean
57. "M" (1931) Fritz Lang
58. "Mad Max 2" / "The Road Warrior" (1981) George Miller
59. "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) John Huston
60. "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) John Frankenheimer
61. "Metropolis" (1926) Fritz Lang
62. "Modern Times" (1936) Charles Chaplin
63. "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975) Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam
64. "Nashville" (1975) Robert Altman
65. "The Night of the Hunter" (1955) Charles Laughton
66. "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) George Romero
67. "North by Northwest" (1959) Alfred Hitchcock
68. "Nosferatu" (1922) F.W. Murnau
69. "On the Waterfront" (1954) Elia Kazan
70. "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968) Sergio Leone
71. "Out of the Past" (1947) Jacques Tournier
72. "Persona" (1966) Ingmar Bergman
73. "Pink Flamingos" (1972) John Waters
74. "Psycho" (1960) Alfred Hitchcock
75. "Pulp Fiction" (1994) Quentin Tarantino
76. "Rashomon" (1950) Akira Kurosawa
77. "Rear Window" (1954) Alfred Hitchcock
78. "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955) Nicholas Ray
79. "Red River" (1948) Howard Hawks
80. "Repulsion" (1965) Roman Polanski
81. "Rules of the Game" (1939) Jean Renoir
82. "Scarface" (1932) Howard Hawks
83. "The Scarlet Empress" (1934) Josef von Sternberg
84. "Schindler's List" (1993) Steven Spielberg
85. "The Searchers" (1956) John Ford
86. "The Seven Samurai" (1954) Akira Kurosawa
87. "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
88. "Some Like It Hot" (1959) Billy Wilder
89. "A Star Is Born" (1954) George Cukor
90. "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) Elia Kazan
91. "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) Billy Wilder
92. "Taxi Driver" (1976) Martin Scorsese
93. "The Third Man" (1949) Carol Reed
94. "Tokyo Story" (1953) Yasujiro Ozu
95. "Touch of Evil" (1958) Orson Welles
96. "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948) John Huston
97. "Trouble in Paradise" (1932) Ernst Lubitsch
98. "Vertigo" (1958) Alfred Hitchcock
99. "West Side Story" (1961) Jerome Robbins/Robert Wise
100. "The Wild Bunch" (1969) Sam Peckinpah
101. "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) Victor Fleming

These do NOT belong on this list [and why]:
- "Carrie" (1975) Brian DePalma [C'mon, this was an OK horror flick. There was nothing innovative or groundbreaking about this movie, other than offing John Travolta (which was aped later by the master ape, Tarantino).]
- "The Crying Game" (1992) Neil Jordan [It's a one-joke movie: The chick has a dick! And hey if that's what does it for ya, that's fine, but it does not a must see movie make. Admittedly, the very surprised paramour puking in the sink after coming head to head with the monster is funny.]
"Do the Right Thing" (1989) Spike Lee [Meh. Preachy tripe; especially the ending. "She's Gotta Have It" was better and should be in this place on the list.]
"Pink Flamingos" (1972) John Waters [What? An ugly transvestite eating real dog shit counts as seminal? If we're gonna go for the wacky, messed-up transvestite thang, why not "Rocky Horror Picture Show"? It was a much better film, and that's saying a lot.]

These are MIA:

- Airplane!
- American Graffiti
- Big Chill, the
- Blair Witch Project, the [or alternatively "Primer" - either as a representation of what can be accomplished for an inexpensive indie film]
- Body Heat
- Brazil
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Christmas Vacation (National Lampoon's)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind
- Dog Day Afternoon
- Evil Dead II
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Fish Called Wanda, a
- Forbidden Planet
- French Connection, the
- Graduate, the
- Groundhog Day
- Harold and Maude
- High Noon
- LOTR (All 3)
- Matrix, the
- Memento
- Office Space
- On Golden Pond
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- Ordinary People
- Philadelphia Story, the
- Planet of the Apes (Original version)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Raising Arizona
- Robocop
- Rocky Horror Picture Show [from above - took my own advice]
- Saturday Night Fever
- Silence of the Lambs
- Sixteen Candles
- Sixth Sense, the
- There's Something about Mary
- Sophie's Choice
- Sound of Music, the
- Star Wars [If this needs to be explained, then there is no hope.]
- Sting, the
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day
- They Call me Trinity / Trinity is Still My Name [Ok, maybe this one's a stretch. But every one of my generation who saw them remembers these comic spaghetti westerns.]
- Thin Blue Line, the
- This is Spinal Tap
- Toy Story
- When Harry Met Sally
- Young Frankenstein

And there you have it.

If you see the films here, you'll have seen about the best of what modern film has to offer. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"The signs are all around you!"

The signs are all around you
Originally uploaded by !HF.
Here we go...

I was wondering when this would start making the rounds.

Friday, April 07, 2006

It's a planet! Who knew?

(Joke courtesy of The Fairly Odd Parents, the best cartoon on TV these days.)

You think this headline was intentional?
A Glimpse

If there are condos in hell, I have seen what they might look like.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

In which we discovered that TV is still just TV
Or, the revolution won't be televised in our house.

One of the first major purchases my wife and I made back when we had disposable income was a HUGE TV. The screen was 6 feet across and about 5 1/2 foot tall. (The distance of your outstretched arms equals your height - and I was able to just get my fingertips around each side, and I'm 6 foot even.) It even had built-in surround sound, something I had been lusting for since it was available in the home.

The shaved gorillas who delivered the thing to our tiny 4th floor apartment nearly passed out with exertion from the effort. The floor itself seemed to bow where it stood.

And there it was, reminiscent of that scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey when the people in chimp costumes happened upon the monolith. We turned it on. There was great rejoicing and, yea, much surfing.

The next day my wife and I sat slumped on our futon couch, eyes lifted to the radiant glow of the garage-door-sized screen.

"I hate this thing," I said.

"What a relief!" said my wife, "I can't stand it either."

The morose gorillas came the next day and dragged it away. It was as if a munchkin-like woman with a beehive 'doo had pronounced our house clean.

The moral of the story was that TV is still just TV no matter how large it is.

Yes, I would love the option of having a home theatre projector for watching movies, especially wide screen movies. But I do not want to have to again face the visage of a TV news anchor or even any of the Friends expanded to cinematic heights. Particularly when I'll be able to see each and every pore.

Movies are simply framed differently than TV fare, too. One great example is a scene in Never Cry Wolf where Our Hero is chasing a dog sled across the frozen wasteland. They are practically specs in the distance, which looks great on a big screen. TV shows are mostly close-ups and medium shots. Watching that kind of content on a big screen gets me kinda swimmy.

Nonetheless, TV manufacturers want very much for us to lay down thousands of dollars on HDTVs. They've even gotten laws passed that broadcast signals for standard TV will cease in 2009, and we will need an HDTV or some device that will decode the signal for our old TVs. (Apparently cable and satellite users don't have to worry, they will kindly provide both (all?) kinds of signals.)

Well, fine.

But, I gotta tell ya, I've seen these HDTVs in stores everywhere now, and they really don't look that much better than the TVs I already have. Yes, I've seen them with HDTV content, too. They certainly aren't worth thousands of dollars.

My reaction, though, was much like it was to the huge TV. It's still just TV. Nothing will change that, I imagine.
2005, worst year in movies ever?

The lovely wife and I saw A History of Violence. We're both Cronenberg fans and were looking forward to it.

Halfway through, the wife turned to me and said, "Didn't anyone notice how silly the script is?"

And that about says it all.
50 Greatest Independent Films

Hey, I can get behind this list. I've seen the majority of these, and the ones I've seen do have something to recommend them.

My only warning is that the films of Todd Solondz are for those who don't mind graphic and disturbing movies that blow past the boarders of social mores and convention presumably with the intent to see just how completely they'll shatter. I find them repugnant mind garbage, myself.
I meant to post this yesterday

Digg linked to an article about procrastination.

I think the article's conclusions are a pungent pile of poopie.

This is most likely a case of the "researchers" approaching the topic "objectively" and not really looking into their own souls or to common sense (presuming, of course) for reasons they've procrastinated. Now, since they are interested in the topic, they're either procrastinators themselves and wanted to explore it, or worse, they're those hyper-efficient pains in the ass who "seize the day" and get shit done way before it's necessary, and then wonder prissily why everyone else doesn't do the same.

The reason MOST people procrastinate is because the thing they have to do is an obligation, not a choice (read: Something fun). Most of us don't procrastinate when something's a joy, or something we want to do. No, we typically only procrastinate on obligations. And the primary reason is time management. Why spend more time on something that has to be done than you have to? Often starting too early causes extra work, as does starting way too late. But starting about when something's supposed to be done, giving yourself adequate time to do it, is usually the best way to guarantee that you'll spend the least amount of time on it.

I once worked for a guy who said he liked to hire "lazy" people because they usually found the most efficient (read: Easy) way to solve a problem. They were point A to point B kinda people. I couldn't agree more. These also people tend to "procrastinate" because it's usually wise.

So why did these yahoos (and I use the term with good intentions) miss something that pretty much any given teenager could have told them?

First, let me say I respect the vast majority of the psychological sciences and its adherents. I think they have done a lot to help alleviate human misery and provide succor to those who've desperately needed it - and will do so for the foreseeable future.

But some of them are just freakin' idiots.

It's no secret that some folks who get into psychology do so to attempt to understand why they themselves are so fucked up. So, one has to be on the lookout for these patients in doctor's clothing.

And, some specialties in psychology seem to attract the biggest loons. I've never met a child psychologist (Phd. level) that I would allow to be alone with my child. (Though I've met many "general" clinical psychologists who are great with children, but that's usually because they understand that children's problems are often similar to adult's problems. )

One child psychologist I knew had a nanny because she literally couldn't figure out how to manage her children. She would panic and hire a temporary nanny/babysitter if the primary one went on vacation, took a night off, or became ill. She simply would not be alone with her own children. And ya know what? After getting to know her a little better, I believe her judgment on that issue was sound.

So, maybe the authors of the procrastination article should also do a little research on obsessive compulsive disorder. I'm just saying.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Lost Enigma

Hey, Entertainment Weekly published that map that Locke saw on the door whilst it was crushing his leg. I wanted to look at it close up, so I scanned it. Have a look if you're a fellow devotee.

Originally uploaded by yahmdallah.

This is not actual size, so download to your system to view it in extreme closeup (for better reading).

Download the monster file (right click, select save) HERE
Broke Bash

<who> i can't watch brokeback mountain for the same reason i can't watch horror movies
<who> i would scream "HE'S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!!!" in the middle of the theater

castuslumen: whats the name of those hats that Green Berets wear?
foranzan: are you being stupid on purpose?
castuslumen: what?
foranzan: you are officially the Rolls Royce of stupid.

bcreasy: come check this out
gbarnes: no
bcreasy: *shiny thing*
gbarnes: oh, be right there

DooMGoaT: shame none of the 360 games are as good as the spider squashy banner

spazdor: how do you get a Cisco Certified Network Administrator off your porch?
cnug: ...?
spazdor: pay for your pizza

[Y note on that last one: Ouch!]
At least there's that...

The Register's April Fool's joke (found via Making Light) made me recall a meme thread that wafted through the lefty blogs after Bush's second election theft, where the concern was that he would use all the powers he's gathering for himself and make it legal to run for a third term - most likely by tacking on a proviso on the end of a bill providing milk money for impoverished children that he could have a third term if Cheney's ticker holds out. (Oh, who are we kidding? Bush would veto a bill that provided milk to needy children.)

Anyway, in a recent display of his usual character, he said that the Iraq war was the next president's mess to end and clean up. So, there you have it, from the horse's ass mouth itself, no third term.