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Friday, March 05, 2010
Conservative Bloggers Choose Their Favorite Movies Of All-Time:
Right Wing News emailed more than 255 right-of-center bloggers and asked them to send us a list of their favorite movies. Representatives from the following 55 blogs responded...
One of whom was yours truly.
All bloggers were allowed to make anywhere from 1-10 unranked selections and over 300 movies received at least one vote.
Six of my ten choices received at least enough votes to show up in the top selections. I was pleasantly surprised to see that "The Incredibles" came in at number five overall.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
When a lifelong, committed liberal zealot like Roger Ebert makes an argument against political interest, you have to pay attention. Excerpts from his review of the new documentary "Waiting for Superman":
Roger Ebert, Al Gore's global warming documentarian, and Bill Gates agree with a position held by a majority of conservatives in this country. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for some of that vaunted bipartisan action we keep hearing so much about.
At the Federal level, the only substantive action the Obama administration has taken with regard to this issue is to block reform. The latest federal education budget goes out of its way to eliminate funding for new DC area charter school vouchers, closing off the one tiny escape outlet from the failing status quo of public schools.
The Washington Post characterizes the motivation behind killing the voucher program:
Teachers unions and other education groups active in the Democratic Party regard vouchers as a drain on public education that benefits relatively few students, and they say the students don't achieve at appreciably higher levels at their new schools.
The teacher's unions, according to Davis Guggenheim the same group bringing you the Dropout Factories, Classrooms of Death, and the Lemon Dance, and who Ebert called an "obscenity". With a track record like that, how do they continue to wield so much power?
One possibility - fully one in ten delegates to the 2008 Democrat National Convention were teacher's union members. In 2008, 91% of political contributions from the National Education Association went to Democrat Party candidates and causes. And the NEA looks downright centrist compared to the American Federation of Teachers, who gave 99% of their political contributions to Democrats.
Something to remember next time your favorite Democrat politician starts to rail against the corrupting influence of special interest groups.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
You ever wonder why certain memories suddenly pop into your head? The other day, I was walking out to my car after work when out of the blue my subconscious dredges up a childhood memory that hadn't crossed my mind years.
The year was 1977 or thereabouts. The place was a movie theater. Possibly the Dock in Excelsior, but I'm not so sure anymore. The cast was me, JB, and two of our neighborhood friends, the Swanson brothers. One was a year older than one me. One a year older than JB. This age grouping lead us to spend quite a bit of time together as kids. We played a lot of sports and also got together for other activities as we were on this day.
We were watching the movie For the Love of Benji. Why? It was probably the only release that our parents deemed suitable viewing at the time. This was pre-cable, pre-DVD, heck it was pre-VCR for most of us and when it came to movies we pretty took whatever we could get.
Anyway, I remember nothing about the movie until the end. For some reason a basket was opened by Benji to reveal a liter of puppies. It was a surprise to the audience and one of those impossibly cute moments that elicits a smiling "Awwww...." from just about anyone. Except for my brother.
His immediate, visceral, and unrestrained response was to yell "Stoop!" about as loud as he could. At the time, we used it the word as a slang, shorter version of "stupid." So technically, it's "Stup!" pronounced "Stoop!" I don't recall how the other movie goers reacted to JB's little outburst, but it obviously made an impression on me as I still recall it more than thirty years on. In hindsight, as movie criticism goes it was some of most cogent and concise I've ever come across. Simple, to the point, and spot on.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Ben from Infinite Monkeys chimes in on the discussion of Where the WIld Things Are from earlier this week:
Thursday, October 22, 2009
It's been a lousy year for movies. Many a weekend I've wanted to see something, anything, because I like movies in movie theaters. But reviewing the list of options and checking out some reviews from respected sources, there wasn't nothin' worth leaving the house for. A depressing state of affairs.
The current roster of Hollywood dreck doesn't hold a lot of promise. The one possibility is Where the Wild Things Are. Beloved childhood story, proven director who is a good fit for the subject matter, intriguing trailers. Hope kept alive with the Rotten Tomatoes freshness rating of 69% and Metacritic score of 71.
I was just about to commit to the idea of seeing it this weekend. Then I happened to read Katie McCollow's blog. Opening line from her latest post:
Just got back from Where the Dull, Whiny Bastards Are.No, she didn't just get back from a taping of "This American Life" on NPR. Sadly, she was returning from the only chance I had for a movie this weekend. Excerpt from the rest of her highly entertaining, nail in the coffin review:
Max and the demons spend the next 5000 hours or so working through their issues of alienation, abandonment and disappointment. I know, it sounds super fun, but trust me, it wasn't. Like I said, the best children's stories take on deep issues, but they do it in an entertaining way. This movie, on the other hand, was like having front-row seats into some unhappy family's therapy session. If only Spike Jonz had remembered the wise words of Mary Poppins: "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." It was so stupefyingly dull, I was begging for someone to come out and shoot Bambi's mom.
Monday, September 21, 2009
If you missed the original RiffTrax Plan 9 From Outer Space Live Event last month, you can now catch a special encore performance on Thursday, October 8th:
Who knew that the worst movie ever made would be so popular! The original evening of live riffing captured on August 20th will be rebroadcast to movie theaters nationwide for one night only. Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) and Bill Corbett (Crow T. Robot), now of RiffTrax.com, are even better on the big screen!
This encore event will feature the new short, Flying Stewardess, and non-stop hilarious riffing on a COLOR version of "Plan 9 from Outer Space"--a 1959 science fiction/horror film written, produced and directed by Edward D. Wood Jr. Don't miss your last chance for an exciting evening of riffing, zombies, aliens, cheesy performances, wisecracks, laughable special effects and more!
Acclaimed critics of comedy (and Sisyphus) hailed the original event as "hilarious" and agreed that it featured more laugh out loud moments than they've experienced in a movie theater in years (at least since seeing Ben Affleck in "Pearl Harbor"). If you like your wit sharp and smart, this is a must-see event.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Tonight, the long-anticipated RiffTrax LIVE: Plan 9 from Outer Space is showing at a theater near you. 7pm for those of us in the heartland. Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy of MST3K renown direct their withering satirical wit at one of the classic bad movies of all time. Granted, it's like shooting fish in a barrel for these sharp-tongued wags, but hearing them crack wise on such a soft target promises no end of belly guffawing.
I'll be attending said event with a few of my fellow Fraters (including Sisyphus, the newest member of the Fraters team whose arrival here was somewhat overshadowed by some limp-armed quarterback coming out of retirement) at the AMC Rosedale 14 theater in Roseville. We'll be waiting for our promised shout out from Mike Nelson and may react like spurned Packer fans if Mr. Nelson betrays our trust. Well, we'll be a little more sober.
SISYPHUS ADDS: I will be the one wearing the purple Favre jersey.
THE ELDER PROVIDES SOME BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL Be a shame if anything was to happen to that purty purple Favre jersey of yours Sis'. A real shame.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
RiffTrax LIVE: Plan 9 from Outer Space:
Join the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 for the comedy event of the year!
Fathom Events presents RiffTrax LIVE: Plan 9 from Outer Space, an evening of LIVE riffing on the Worst Movie Ever Made beaming into movie theaters nationwide on Thursday, August 20th at 8PM ET/ 7PM CT/ 6PM MT/ Tape Delayed at 8PM PT.
Join Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo) and Bill Corbett (Crow T. Robot), now of RiffTrax.com, as they are reunited in HD for the first time ever on the big screen! This event will feature the world premiere of a brand new, never-before-seen short and non-stop hilarious riffing on a COLOR version of "Plan 9 from Outer Space"--a 1959 science fiction/horror film written, produced and directed by Edward D. Wood Jr.
You can a complete list of participating theaters in the Twin Cities here. I definitely plan to be at one of them.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
It's widely acknowledged that Pixar routinely cranks out the best in animated movies. Every one of their releases has been commercially successful and usually critically acclaimed. Now that the number of releases has reached double digits, I thought it would be a good time to rank the catalog of Pixar films. Here's my list from bottom to top:
10. Toy Story 2 (1999): One of the chief appeals of the Pixar stories is how original and creative they are. Therefore a sequel almost by default will place last.
9. Cars (2006): Didn't like this as much as many did. The story and characters were good, but not great. And unlike most of the Pixar collection, repeated viewings did not increase my affinity for the movie or reveal more than originally met the eye.
8. Finding Nemo (2003): Nemo is ninety minutes of pure entertainment joy. Unfortunately, it's a 100 minute movie and the ten minutes that should have been left on the cutting room floor put place the film in the bottom half of Pixar's top ten.
7. Toy Story (1995): You always have a special place in your heart for your first love. And most of us were smitten when Toy Story appeared on the screen. But like a first crush who in hindsight was more cute than beautiful, it doesn't compare with what was to come.
6. A Bug's Life (1998): A movie that I feel is too often overlooked in the Pixar oeuvre. The visuals, the cast of characters, and the plot are all uniquely appealing. The only reason it doesn't rank higher is that the other films are just so danged good.
5. UP* (2009): The asterisk indicates that unlike all of the other movies, I've only viewed UP once. I expect this to change after it becomes available on DVD. The movie has a bit more heart and soul than previous Pixar productions along with the usual top notch comedy, characters, and plot.
4. Monsters Inc. (2001): For some reason this movie doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Of all the Pixar stories, it's the tops in terms of pure creative genius. The characters are tremendous and the world they inhabit a work of wonder. Good music too.
3. WALL-E (2008): Yes, it carries an environmental message about as subtle as a two-by-four to the head, but who cares? It packs a visually stunning, imaginative, and even emotional punch that's hard to match.
2. Ratatouille (2007): Another visual masterpiece largely seen from the viewpoint of a rat. Only Pixar could pull off something like this and they do it amazingly well. Well-developed characters, a highly original storyline, and rich scenery where the tastes and smells of a Parisian restarant just about waft off the screen make Ratatouille an absolute delight.
1. The Incredibles (2004): The
Saturday, July 04, 2009
The July 6th edition of National Review contains Ross Douthat's review of the movie "Away We Go." One line in the review perfectly summarizes everything you need to know about the flick.
This is a movie with the soul of a "mean people suck" bumper sticker.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Happened to catch a bit of the original "All the King's Men" last night. Two scenes in particular caught my attention:
Loud cheers. Adam watches Anne. She applauds. Willie looks down at the crowd and continues his speech.
WILLIE: This much I swear to you. These things you shall have. I'm going to build a hospital. The biggest that money can buy... and it will belong to you.
That any man, woman, or child who is sick or in pain can go through those doors and know that everything will be done for them that man can do. To heal sickness. To ease pain. Free.
Not as a charity, but as a right.
And it is your right that every child shall have a complete education.
That any man who produces anything can take it to market without paying toll.
And no poor man's land or farm can be taxed or taken away from him.
And it is the right of the people that they will not be deprived of hope...
JACK: (voice over)
What if it was his bribe! He swept the old gang out of office. What if they hollered like stuck pigs? He jammed through bill after bill and the people got what they wanted.
Willie yelling at the legislators during a session.
WILLIE: I demand that this bill be passed. Nobody's going to tell me how to run this state.
Road excavation -- a bulldozer clears away dirt.
A huge crane maneuvers over a dam site. Men are seen working on the girders of a large power plant.
JACK: (voice over)
He started to build the roads, the schools, the power dams, to change the face of the state from one end to the other... His methods?
Friday, December 12, 2008
Even though it's probably been four years (and three children) since I've actually made it to a theater to see a movie, I still keep an eye on the latest releases. And even though 98% of all sci-fi movies made in the last ten years are complete and utter crap, I still find myself drawn in by the lure of an out-of-this-world story with smashing special effects. The ten-year old inner boy still holds out hope that an escapist movie will be able to thrill and entertain the man of today as they used to in the distant past.
So when I saw a couple of trailers to the latest version of "The Day The Earth Stood Still," I felt that faint glimmer of excitement at the possibility that--despite the presence of Keanu Reeves--this could one of those all too rare sci-fi pearls. Peter Sunderman's review at Culture11 thoroughly and completely dashed that hope:
The movie's environmentalism is as wretched as its script is dumb, essentially positing that humanity might deserve to be wiped out for failing, in some totally unexplained way, to take care of the planet. It's a dismal message in a dismal movie, and only Reeves's trance-like, deadpan turn as Klaatu provides any fun. Everyone else involved ought to be embarrassed at both the story and the message, which isn't just pro-environment, but anti-human--which may explain why only an evolved being like Reeves survives unscathed.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Actually MooveAlong.org is well worth a look. Anyone who's ever been on the receiving end of an e-mail from the group being spoofed will enjoy this:
101% Income Tax Making Ground
MooveAlong.org is working hard to get language added to an upcoming bill that will force all taxpayers making more than $50,000/year to pay 101 percent of their earnings to the U.S.government.
So far, MooveAlong hasn't been able to get a Member of Congress to sponsor the language, but our lobbying firm assures us that we're days away from getting a Legislative Assistant to return our call.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
Joseph Rago looks at "The Happening" as the latest example of the desire for A Planet Without People in today's WSJ (sub req):
The "happening" is millions of men, women and children killing themselves, usually in creative ways, as when a zookeeper invites lions to chew off his limbs and a lady offs herself by French-kissing the toaster. The deaths, first believed to be terrorism, are actually acts of nature. Trees are releasing an airborne neurotoxin, as revenge against mankind for global warming, pollution and nuclear power. The genocide, we are told, is condign punishment for our ecological crimes.
The conceit extends a metaphor Al Gore proposed in his 2007 Nobel lecture: If "we have begun to wage war on the Earth itself," why wouldn't the Earth fight back? By the end of the film, the dwindling band of survivors -- whose more sensible response would have been to blanket the world's forests with Agent Orange -- repents, and is thus spared hideous death. In a recent interview, Mr. Shyamalan, best known for "The Sixth Sense" (1999), said that "The Happening" is intended to "wake everybody up" and "get back to the correct relationship with nature."
Obviously it isn't Hollywood's first environmental disaster flick. Think of 2004's "The Day After Tomorrow," where all it takes is the CO2-induced obliteration of the East Coast for Dennis Quaid to learn how to be a better dad. But catastrophic climate change in that movie was a simple plot device that could be replaced easily enough with, say, space aliens. "The Happening" is honest-to-Gaia green agitprop: Like the Lorax, Mr. Shyamalan is speaking for the trees.
SAINT PAUL NOTES: Roger Ebert is the only movie critic I've seen who has praise for The Happening. Mostly because he considered the premise of the Earth striking back against the sins of humanity as entirely plausbile:
For some time the thought has been gathering at the back of my mind that we are in the final act. We have finally insulted the planet so much that it can no longer sustain us. It is exhausted.
Hey planet, relax. Last week when I napalmed the ant mound in my back yard - it was nothing personal.
It never occurred to me that vegetation might exterminate us. In fact, the form of the planet's revenge remains undefined in my thoughts, although I have read of rising sea levels and the ends of species.
Uh oh, the rising sea levels. That sounds familiar. From another recently released horror show, the Obama Speech a few weeks ago:
Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal
I'm guessing Ebert was giving two thumbs up (at least) to this one.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
In no particular order.
The one thing that most of these movies share is the collective agreement that these are all important, smart movies that people who want to be viewed as being important and smart are supposed to like.
The truth is, these movies are either boring as hell, never as good as they are hailed, or simply played out and no longer entertaining in any way, whatsoever.
Chinatown--snooze fest dee-luxe! I have actually seen it in a movie theatre and it added nothing. Water? Who controls the water? Who cares? Nicholson looks ridikkeruss with that bandaid on his nose throughout the five hour epic (seems like it, anyhow). Plus, it looks so 1975 and not 1946 or whatever it was supposed to be.
The Last Waltz--little insight here folks: most of the recordings were re-done in the studio, so the great harmonies you think you're hearing live were fixed later. Lame. And what the hell is up with the interviews? Robbie Robertson and "Marty" Scorsese are so wacked out of their self-important gourds on coke that they are incoherent. Notice the white nostril artwork in the background? Hilarious. *rolls eyes*
Spinal Tap--plaaaaayyyed out. Way out. Yes, we all get the gags. They're 25 years old. I thought this was really funny when I was 17--"They're making fun of heavy metal? Hah, that is so funny!" The next person I hear say "Hello Cleveland" or "This one goes to 11" is going to be assaulted with a Telecaster. Enough already.
Raging Bull--more boring than Chinatown. Yes, I know, hard to imagine. I watched this again recently for about 40 minutes and not a damn thing happened. They went to a nightclub and there was some talking. Then they talked some more. Then Deniro was walking around in a wife beater and acting all angry. I fell asleep.
Dr. Strangelove--zzzzzzzzz...I watched about 20 minutes of this one recently too and I felt like I was being beaten about the head and back by the movie. WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! They pummel the audience with cloying irony, my least favorite literary device. This is another movie where I want to yell out "YES! WE GET IT! THE MILITARY ARE STUPID! IT'S HILARIOUS! NOW STFU!"
That's all I can think of for now.
The Elder Takes A Whack: I imagine that this post will generate some discussion (with reaction from Saint Paul and Atomizer forthcoming) as JB processes several sacred movie cows through his abattoir. My only real disagreement is with "Tap" which I believe still retains its timeless appeal.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
If you haven't checked it out lately, you may have missed the expansion of the RiffTrax Catalogue. There are now a score of movies to enjoy, including a number of recent releases such as "I Am Legend," "Cloverfield," and "Beowulf." You may also notice that one James Lileks has been added to roster of guest riffers. His profile includes a picture of him doing his best impersonation of Tom Cruise in "Top Gun" (nice try James):
James Lileks was born in Fargo North Dakota, the son of Norman Rockwell and Betty Crocker. He attended the University of Minnesota for seven years, attending class for five; at the Minnesota Daily he started writing a column that has continued in the Twin Cities market for thirty years.
After college he used his English Major to find employment as a convenience store clerk, but soon left the world of actual labor for a series of jobs spent typing fiction in small, cloth-covered cubicles. He has been a columnist for City Pages, the Pioneer Press, Newhouse News Service and is presently a columnist for the Star-Tribune, where he also runs the buzz.mn blog.
They've also come up with a RiffTrax player to make the entire synchronization process almost idiot proof. So idiot proof that I'm going to finally try it myself on the next bidness trip I take.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Shawn Otto is husband of the liberal State Auditor Rebecca Otto. He also is the screenwriter of the dreary, depressing and award winning movie "The House of Sand and Fog." True, I've not actually seen it. But I think its fair to say that any movie whose title you can't say aloud three times without falling asleep may not be the runaway thrill ride of the century.
Reviews like this, all from people claiming to have liked the movie, don't help either:
An engrossing drama about the downward mobility of a recovering alcoholic and the yearning for upward mobility of an Iranian immigrant.
A rewarding tale of desperation and lost dreams.
A brilliant treatise on people who do all the wrong things for all the right reasons.
Are these reviews of the House and Sand and Fog or of the DFL Platform? Is there a difference?
Big news, Otto is preparing his next dose of box office magic:
Stillwater-area screenwriter Shawn Otto ("House of Sand and Fog") was putting together the deal for his directorial debut, "Dreams of a Dying Heart"
Along with popcorn and Junior Mints, theater managers are being encouraged to add Maximum Strength No Doz to the concession stand for the run of this one.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Looking through a list of Oscar contenders the other day, I realized that in the five major categories, I've seen all of ONE, yes ONE of the seventeen movies involved in said categories. That movie was Eastern Promises, which has Viggo Mortensen up for Best Actor. And I saw that movie not in a theater, but on an airplane somewhere over the Pacific.
I'm not as big a film buff as our own Saint Paul, but usually I would have viewed at least one of the five contenders for Best Picture. Usually in this case meaning in the time before children. Having two kids under the age of three really does change pretty much everything.
Friday, October 12, 2007
The broad outlines of a movie about Iraq I'd like to see, from VDH:
... the American military, after four years of hard fighting in Iraq, is strained, its equipment wearing out. America's finest citizens, fighting for an idealistic cause that has still not been well explained to the American people, continue to be killed by horrific murderers.
Lost in all this confusion over Iraq is the fact that about 160,000 gifted American soldiers are trying to help rebuild an entire civilization socially, politically and economically -- and defeat killers in their midst who will murder far beyond Iraq if not stopped.
The movie about Iraq we'll be getting instead:
A Hollywood producer is developing a project based on a U.S. journalist's struggle to save the life of her interpreter in Iraq.
While on assignment in the war-torn country in 2003, McClatchy Newspapers correspondent Hannah Allam was accompanied by an interpreter, Ban Sarhan. When Iraqi insurgents discovered that Sarhan was working for a U.S. media company, they murdered her husband, 4-year-old daughter and mother-in-law.
Allam, unable to get assistance from the U.S. government to protect Sarhan and her infant son, set out on her own to smuggle the two out of the country, an endeavor that proved successful.
The project will be developed by TV producer Bonnie Garvin ("The Killing Yard"), who learned of the story from an article in Glamour magazine, and acquired the rights to Allam's story.
If the tragic facts of that story are true, no doubt some dramatic possibilities are available. But, amid the continuing torrent of Hollywood movies with the narrow, destructive focus of Iraq as needless tragedy, do we really need another? Any chance in Hades this thing will find wide audience appeal or come close to making a profit? Questions like these never seem to dim the green light when it comes to a good anti-war picture these days.
Friday, September 14, 2007
From the September 24th National Review's The Week (sub req):
Hollywood is about to release a batch of Terror War movies. What are they like? You'll know when you see them, but here are thumbnail advance sketches from mainstream media.
Lions for Lambs: Robert Redford is an anti-war professor whose students end up fighting in Afghanistan. Grace Is Gone: John Cusack must tell his children that their mother died in Iraq. Charlie Wilson's War: Tom Hanks aids anti-Soviet mujahideen in Afghanistan (who become the Taliban). Stop-Loss: A soldier refuses to return to Iraq. The Fall of the Warrior King: Soldiers drown an Iraqi civilian. Redacted: Soldiers rape an Iraqi girl and murder her family.
The director of the last is Brian De Palma, who says, "The pictures are what will stop the war." No. The pictures would stop only one side from fighting. The other will just keep going. De Palma et al. certainly behave as if they want that side to win. But saying that would be McCarthyite, and then they'd just make movies about that for 40 years...
With the possible exception of "Charlie Wilson's War" (which is a great story and could be a great movie if the partisan axe grinding is kept to a minimum), these films all sound like absolute crap. What the hell is wrong with Hollywood anyway? It's not as if there aren't fascinating stories to tell from the war.
Marcus Luttrell's for instance:
Or Maj. Douglas A. Zembiec's? We need movies that tell stories like The Lion of Fallujah not more lies and distortion.
UPDATE-- More on the motivations of Hollywood from Friday'sWSJ (sub req):
Director Paul Haggis, whose new film "In the Valley of Elah," stars Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon in a classic murder mystery set against the backdrop of the Iraq war, makes no bones about his political stance. "I'm very political and was very much against this war and the Afghanistan war before we invaded," he says. He describes the film as a political "Trojan horse" disguised as a murder mystery.
Mr. Haggis, the Oscar-winning writer-director of 2004's "Crash," launched the project during the early phase of the war, when public sentiment was largely behind the conflict. He says the current public mood will make it much easier to market the film, which opens today. "It would have been impossible if the war had gone as well as the president predicted or had there been another major terrorist attack," Mr. Haggis says.
Yeah, it would have been a shame if US military success in Iraq had dampened Mr. Haggis' hopes for a boffo box office.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The other day, my five-year-old niece went to see Mr Bean's Holiday with her family. A half hour in, she turned to her mother and said, "Let's go mom and let the boys (her brother and dad) watch the movie."
Outside the theater, her mother asked her why she didn't like the film.
"It's idiotic," she replied.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I doubt if the Wright brothers would ever have imagined a passenger traveling in a future version of their flying machine seeing (and understanding) the message, "Please wait while seat reboots." What a wonderful world.
Why are the majority of the movies available on the in-flight entertainment systems edited while others are shown as is? I don't understand why I could only watch an edited version of Blades of Glory while getting 300 in all its R rated glory. If all the in-flight movies were edited to remove violence, language, and nudity I could understand it, but there seems to be little rhyme or reason to the offerings. I never watch the edited movies because I don't know what has been edited and why.
I did watch 300 and was pleasantly surprised. It was a much better movie than I had been led to believe. While I would have preferred to see the guys actually wear their tunics and cover their bulging pecs at least occasionally, overall I found it very entertaining. Great story, good action sequences, and a score appropriate for the film? What more could you ask for? Especially from a comic book (sorry geeks, but calling it a "graphic novel" doesn't mean it's anything more than a glorified comic book) adapted to the big screen.
And, as VDH pointed out, it isn't too far a field from the real history either. Yes, idiotic morning show host on KFAN who shall go unnamed, it REALLY did happen.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Got around to watching Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby this weekend and the movie left me with two questions:
1. Was it supposed to be funny? Because other than a few scattered moments of mild amusement, it really wasn't.
2. Why does a comedy like this have to last TWO HOURS AND TWO MINUTES? If you can't get 'er done in ninety minutes, then something's wrong with the concept and execution, the latter especially in this case. It wasn't a bad movie, it just wasn't very good. And it could have been much better had it been a quarter shorter.
I think part of my problem with Talladega Nights is that I'm just not sold on Will Ferrell's ability to carry a movie. He doesn't have the kind of comic talent that can lift an average script to the next level and, despite the fact that it's apparently a required scene in almost every movie he appears in, watching him run around in his underwear or even worse naked is simply not funny.
Anchor Man was probably the Ferrell movie that I enjoyed the most. While it was by no means a comedy classic, it was decent and I was disappointed that Talladega Nights doesn't merit even that lukewarm sort of praise. About the only good thing I can say about Talladega Nights is that it's better than Old School, which may go down in history as the most overrated comedy of all time.
UPDATE-- Paul e-mails to largely concur:
Agreed with your movie review, except I liked it a little less than you. Most dissapointing were the fact that Sasha Cohen and Andy Richter, who I both find capable of humor, were terribly unfunny every second they appeared on screen.
I have a serious question related to this type of movie. Does the project get greenlighted based on the first fifteen minutes of script? Because I can name about 50 comedys that I've seen in the last 10 years that are pretty damn funny for fifteen minutes, but very unfunny after that. In this case, the scene where they said grace at the beginning of the movie was hilarious, then there were no other funny parts, with the possible exception of a couple lines by John C. Reilly.
Kudos to you for pointing out that the emporer really has no clothes, when it comes to the humor of a naked Will Ferrell.
When Talladega Nights came out, I heard rave reviews of Sasha Cohen's performance as the gay French foil, but I too found his character utterly unfunny.
Actually I thought the best character was Reese Bobby, played by Gary Cole (probably best known as Bill Lumbergh from Office Space).
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
During my formative years, I can recall seeing the movie "Fletch" in the theater when it was released in 1985. I enjoyed it at the time and continued to find it amusing during repeated viewings in college and young adulthood. It probably would have been listed among my favorite comedies of all time.
Then a few years back, I was watching it yet again and noticed how poorly it had held up over time. I realized that the lines themselves were not all that funny and that it was my familiarity with them rather than any real comic appeal that had fueled my fond thoughts of the movie. It's always disappointing when something that you once enjoyed is finally revealed as wanting, but I didn't put any further thought into it.
Now, Reihan Salam explains Why Chevy Chase's Fletch is so abominably bad at Slate:
As a movie, Fletch is all but unwatchably bad. But as a cultural artifact, it is invaluable. Reagan had just been re-elected by a landslide when the film hit theaters in 1985, and Fletch reflects, in a strange and roundabout way, an era of wrenching liberal despair. While the enlightened bourgeoisie and their scruffy spawn were no longer running the country, they could at least laugh along with Chevy Chase as he poked fun at Reagan's America?the nouveau riche, the pig-headed cops, the Mormons.
Sometimes I think people go too far by trying to bring politics into everything, but a lot of what Salam notes about "Fletch" hits home:
Watching Fletch again, I experienced the shock of recognition: The film perfectly captures the rise of the ironically detached hipster sensibility. Chevy Chase, then at the height of both his career and comedic powers, plays an investigative reporter named Irwin Fletcher. Throughout the movie, he dons a seemingly endless series of "comical" disguises in the haphazard pursuit of a big scoop on the Los Angeles drug trade. And yet he always radiates the same genial contempt. Fletch is handsome, self-confident, and he certainly sounds affable. Listen closely, though, and you'll find that his pleasant demeanor masks the condescending jackass within.
It was a forerunner to much of what passes for comedy these days: smartass makes audience laugh and feel SMART themselves by making fun of people too uncool to "get it." All "Borat" did was take this formula for yucks to a more extreme level.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
After having endured the insufferable "Flyboys" on the hop over, I was about ready to give up on the silver screen altogether and not even bother checking the in-flight entertainment possibilities. But curiosity (and the triumph of hope over experience) eventually lead me to see what options were available from Manila to Minneapolis. Fortunately, since the calendaer had now turned over to February, a whole new spate of movies could be viewed at the touch of a button (several touches actually). One of them was "The Departed."
Contrary to what you may have heard, it's not a great movie. To mention it in the same breathe as "Goodfellas" would be blasphemy. But it was a good movie and after my recent disappointments with the big screen, watching a good movie more than fulfilled my downgraded expectations.
Despite Jack Nicholson chewing through scenes like a locust swarm on a Kansas wheatfield, overall the acting was quite good. I've never been a big fan of Mr. DiCaprio, but he was excellent in this flick. Easily his best work ever. Matt Damon was solid and Marky Mark played it to the hilt (but not beyond) as a foul-mouthed cop.
It was a little long and the love story angle probably not necessary. All in all though "The Departed" was entertaining and compelling enough to hold my interest throughout. Two attributes that are all too rare in movies these days.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
One of the best movies of 2006 was United 93, the account of what might have happened aboard the fourth plane hijacked by the Muslims on 9/11 and driven into the ground in Pennsylvania. The story of the average Americans ambushed and ruthlessly attacked that day, coming to terms with the reality of the situation and fighting back, ultimately succeeding in preventing a larger catastrophe was riveting and jarring and inspirational and beautiful.
Perhaps the only movie I saw in 2006 that was better was Children of Men. I saw it a few weeks ago and was knocked out by it. The 91% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes shows I'm not alone in my admiration. But even when people agree, it always amazes me the different things people take away from movies. For example, take Minnesota Public Radio's reviewer (please), who interpreted the meaning of the film as:
.... if there's a great movie about the alienation of modern life and xenophobia paralyzing the world, it's not Babel. It's Children of Men.
Remember, this is the same reviewer who extolled the greatness of United 93 because:
Greengrass' movie is an indictment of how the government reacted to the hijackings that day and how a small group of people just like you and me made a decision to take control of a plane.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the reviewer getting it exactly wrong happens to be the one paid for by our tax dollars. At least she does consistently provide the service of revealing the truth as seen through the thick lenses of liberal, politically correct goggles.
Far from a message about alienation and xenophobia, though my goggles, Children of Men is the most powerful pro life message I've seen in any mass media vehicle.
The context of Children of Men is science fiction, a world where the human race can no longer procreate and the resulting collapse of society. The impact of this scenario was enhanced by the Mark Steyn commentary I had been reading before hand, through his recent book and related columns. As he documents, the real world is full of societies systematically, by choice, eliminating its children. All European countries are below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1. In Mother Russia, abortions outnumber births by a ratio of 2-to-1. Even here in the God-fearin', allegedly theocracy-leaning USA, around a million abortions per year.
The reasons are varied, but, especially in this country, it is the teaching of modern secular society that children are an expensive burden and an impediment to the good life, which consists of acquiring material possessions and indulging any personal whim you may summon. What's extraordinary about Children of Men is its reminding us that for the good life, for any life, children are all that matter.
To be clear, this movie is not some sort of conservative retribution fantasy. The state was depicted as fascist and murderous. Organized religion is casually dismissed. The heroes are hippy dopers and anti war radicals. The most sympathetic victims are illegal immigrants. (BTW, one effect of this movie was a forced reconsideration of my beliefs on how illegals should be treated in our country. The human value of a baby is present every bit as much in all people, including illegals. Guess what, the Catholic Church has it right again).
But the point of this movie, the importance of human life, cannot be missed (except maybe by MPR reviewers).
It is a terrific movie in a conventional sense too. Action, suspense, and one of the most thrilling, terrifying combat scenes I've ever seen. As this climactic scene unfolded to its beautiful crescendo, I kept thinking how perfect it was. One of the many layers of enjoyment in this movie is watching someone get 100% of the potential out of a scene and this director does it repeatedly. Alfonso Cuaron, you magnificent bastard director, you nailed it!
But especially in this climactic scene centering on a baby and the reactions to all around it, all of the noise and misdirection surrounding the abortion movement seemed quieted. The fog of feminist ideology, libertarian sophistry, the worship of reason, the most base human instincts. It all could be lifted with a simple truth. One so obvious, so intuitive. Each child is irreplaceable, sacred, and vital for our survival and happiness. By killing it, you are killing yourself. Stop.
Amid the tears being shed all around me at the theater, it brought hope that the scales could fall from the eyes of all the desperate, deceived people marching along, and recruiting others, to their mutual destruction. They would recognize the truth and they would stop. It could be that easy.
A few weeks out now since the movie's release and so far no sign of mass repentance. Turns out, one movie alone is not going to accomplish this change of national heart and will (especially with its box office gross so far and dearth of any significant award recognition). We have been reminded before we're going to need a little help this one. After that, it's going to have to be done the old fashioned way (cue Smith Barney commercial). Think, pray, see this movie, live right, work for change, get married, have more kids, etc., etc.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Anthony Sacramone notes some disturbing cinematic news at FIRST THINGS:
Somebody thought The Passion needed a sequel, and not merely in the theological sense. What's more, somebody thought that Tim LaHaye, coauthor of those uber-bestselling successful Left Behind comic books, was the man to produce it. And so he shall. The movie is tentatively entitled, you guessed it, The Resurrection. The screenwriter is Lionel Cheswynd, whose penmanship credits include The Hanoi Hilton, Kissinger and Nixon, and P.T. Barnum. Sony is the studio--the same studio that brought you The Da Vinci Code. It's set to be released Easter-ish 2007. This is the most frightening news I've heard since Sylvester Stallone announced he was making Rambo IV.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Upon recently reviewing a back issue of GQ magazine, the one with Lindsey Lohan airing her lower abdomen on the cover (unfortunately, it cannot be found online), I came across a paragraph of some relevance to our friend Mike Nelson. It was embedded in a review of the Che Guevara romantic buddy road trip epic, The Motorcycle Diaries:
"Valorizing a bloodthirsty, ego-tripping chowder head like Guevara is another story, and in my book, he's already gotten exactly the big-screen tribute he deserves. That would be the 1969 production of 'Che!', a legendarily misbegotten attempt to make a buck off the counterculture, which starred everybody's favorite hepcat, Omar Sharif, as [Che] and, better still, Jack Palance as Fidel Castro. How the crew at Mystery Science Theater 3000 missed getting their mitts on this one beats me."
According to IMDB, it's all true. And they provide this additional fun fact about Che!:
The film was seen as so offensive in Chile and Argentina that Molotovcocktails were reportedly thrown at the screen in some cinemas.
What better endorsement could there be for a film worthy of Mike Nelson's consideration? Given the swelling market for young, hip, Conservative social commentary, a DVD of a MST3K rendering of this movie could be the biggest hit since Rush Limbaugh's tie collection. Though it might provide less laughter.
Here's hoping Mike has an interest in pursuing this. But, if he passes and the revolution is not satirized, we can console ourselves that it will at least be odorized and atomized.
UPDATE: Mike Nelson responds:
I don't know how I missed this film. I guess I'll have to start reading Lindsay Lohan-dotted magazines to keep up. By the way, I like the detail about molotovs, and the fact that some Chileans and Argentinians go prepared with them just in case the movie is that bad.
Infinite Monkey James Phillips responds:
Okay, I hesitate to say that after being mocked on "F.L." many, many months ago for at one time owning more than one "Members Only" jacket, but I have three or four Rush Limbaugh ties and they always get me compliments (having met me, you can understand that would be a rare occurrence), and never, NEVER, provoke laughter. Geez.
We of course meant no offense to James and his sartorial choices. But it speaks volumes that he fails to mention any compliments he's received due to his wearing Che cologne.
Monday, August 02, 2004
The creators of "South Park" take a crack at terrorism, WMD, and acting with an all-puppet cast.
Friday, July 23, 2004
In the days of my youth I lived and died by the syndicated reruns of the 60's live action Batman series. I remember one particular morning when I pitched a holy hell-fire fit when I discovered that my brother, too sick to go to school, would get to watch the morning reruns of the show...without me. Mom decided that I was too hysterical to handle school but I had to spend the rest of the morning banished to my bedroom. There was no Batman for me that day, my friends. I was devastated.
As young as I was at the time, the whole campy, kitschy, self-parodying aspect of the show was way over my head but I do remember thinking that something was oddly intriguing about that Catwoman character (the Julie Newmar incarnation, not the Eartha Kitt one...holy hideousness!). I wasn't able to figure out then what is so eye-poppingly obvious now what exactly that quality was. I'll let you be the judge. Meow indeed.
That said, there is another more subtle aspect of Newmar's Catwoman that makes her portrayal extra appealing...she was a villain. Guys like bad girls. I suppose even 8 year old guys do at some level. They're exotic, dangerous and even a little scary. Catwoman had that in spades. Batgirl, on the other hand, did not interest me in the least. Batman and Robin took care of the crime-fightin', dammit! They didn't need help from some do-gooder teenage tomboy. Besides, she took screen time away from the chick in the skin tight cat suit.
Given the history I have with this fetching feline felon, when I noticed a review of the new Catwoman movie in today's paper, I felt I owed it to myself to at least read it since the chances of me actually seeing the film are wafer thin. Imagine my surprise upon discovering that Halle Berry's character...is a crimefighter. That just ain't right. They've gone and thrown the whole bad girl image down the tubes with this thing! I mean how can that be sexy?
Sunday, July 18, 2004
A recent spate of documentaries with leftist sympathies offers an opportunity to witness the left's true beliefs.
Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me shows the left's view of personal responsibility. It's not my fault I'm an overweight and unhealthy: it's McDonald's.
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911, and the enthusiastic reception it has received, demonstrates the irrational hatred that many on the left have for President Bush.
And now The Corporation, which purports to psychoanalyze corporate culture, gives us a glimpse into what the left thinks of corporations:
While the film mounts overwhelming evidence of the corporation's growing influence in all aspects of public life, Achbar doesn't think that corporations are invulnerable or invincible. The film alludes to the fall of institutions ranging from slavery to Stalinism, and demonstrates the power of activists and ordinary people to curb corporate misdeeds.
Slavery, Stalinism, and corporations. All evil institutions deserving destruction in the minds of the left (although they didn't always feel that way about Uncle Joe). Ponder that one on your way to work tomorrow morning. If you're like me and many other Americans, you work for one of these evil corporations.
But Sarah Janecek makes a good argument for Republicans to see Fahrenheit 911 in this e-mail discussion with Eric Ringham, the Commentary Editor for the Star Tribune:
There's nothing to fear in "Fahrenheit 9/11." At the risk of making Michael Moore rich, every Republican should go see it.
First, there are the laughs. I would have been disappointed if Moore hadn't brought up Eric Clapton's "Cocaine" at the first mention of President Bush's military medical records.
Friday, July 02, 2004
A few days ago I described Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 as liberal pornography. (The same day, Jonah Goldberg came to the same conclusion, a classic case of great minds thinking alike). I haven't seen the movie, and I'm not planning to. But based on the multitude of reviews I've read, and from hearing reports from those who have seen it, the movie seems to be nothing more than a string of fantasy sequences meant to give liberals a perverse thrill at seeing their worst suspicions blown up and performed for them. It really doesn't matter if the facts presented are true. They want them to be true, they NEED them to be true, and thus in their world, this film becomes evidence. It IS true.
I've noticed a similar phenomenon among the promoters and fellow traveling critics of Fahrenheit 9/11. Not just in regard to the alleged facts presented, but also to the affect the movie is supposed to have on the election. Specifically, the affect it will have on the precious undecided voters still trying to make up their mind on who to vote for. Moore's alleged working class appeal and talent for humor is supposed to be reaching beyond typical partisan political rhetoric, to finally grab and mold those naive minds out there, who don't yet know Bush MUST be defeated. The testimonials on Michael Moore's web site are full of these tales:
[my father] was on the National Mall last week, and a college student asked him to sign a petition to remove the President from office. My father thought that was a rude thing to ask and declined to sign. Leaving the theatre today, he was ready to sign. One vote at a time, one drop at a time, will lead to the wave that will wash Mr. Bush back to Texas for good
I expected a "liberal" looking crowd--whatever that means. But I was SHOCKED to see the perfect blend of American society that viewed the film.
I even got my republican father a ticket to see the movie in Orange County. Needless to say after he saw the movie he now plans to vote against the Bush. He has voted Republican since Nixon.
Everyone was talking about how Bush was going to be damaged beyond repair by this film."
My mother agreed to go (who yesterday the 24th told me she wasn't sure who she was voting for anymore) ... she came out of saying there was no way she would ever vote for Bush in November.
Even prominent pundits are trying to forward this notion. The latest carnival barker being Paul Krugman in the New York Times:
Since it opened, "Fahrenheit 9/11" has been a hit in both blue and red America, even at theaters close to military bases. Last Saturday, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took his Nascar crew to see it. The film's appeal to working-class Americans, who are the true victims of George Bush's policies, should give pause to its critics, especially the nervous liberals rushing to disassociate themselves from Michael Moore.
All of this anecdotal evidence is, of course, crap. Wishful interpretation or outright lies. Thanks to the efforts of the conservative voices in the media and some honest film critics, Michael Moore has been justifiably stigmatized as a partisan hack in the public's imagination. There are very few sheep left who will be led into this Bush slaughter assuming it's a honest portrayal of the facts.
That doesn't mean the movie still can't be wildly popular for a while. There are more than enough extreme Democrats to give Moore a $20 million opening weekend. In fact, there are probably enough of those types to get him close a $100 million gross, without a single wavering political neophyte getting influenced by his propaganda. Sure, there are going to be a handful of people like this claiming to have fallen under Moore's spell. But the idea that it's going to persuade millions into changing their voting behavior is absurd.
But since liberals would like it to be true, and Moore and the producers of the film NEED it to be true, it is the hype we're going to be hearing until this pornographic sideshow finally leaves town.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Paul e-mails to point out this post at Beautiful Atrocities which juxtiposes reviews from the same critics of Farenheit 911 with The Passion of the Christ. As Paul says, it is amazing how many of them lauded Moore while decrying Gibson as a pornographer.
Monday, June 28, 2004
I join Saint Paul and Atomizer in their stance on Fahrenheit 911. I will not see the movie under any circumstances. For those who say that you cannot judge the movie unless you view it, I say that if a dog craps in my yard I don't need to smell the pile of feces to know it reeks. And Fahrenheit 911 is really nothing more than Michael Moore squatting down and crapping all over the movie screen. Take a good look at the man and tell me that you don't think his shit stinks.
Jamie e-mails to question the attendance figures from the opening weekend:
Given the new trend of marketing tickets to groups and the attendant publicity for "sold out" shows and ticket sales,
"When will the media get savvy about the actual ATTENDANCE at some of these "sold out" venues?"
Last night at the most popular theatre in Minneapolis' trendy nighttime entertainment area, Uptown, the Lagoon Theater had three screens of five screens devoted to Fareinheit 911. All three screens were "sold out", but 2/3 of the seats were empty.
Amazon.com has caught on to authors pumping up their sales numbers with similar tricks, when will the Movie entertainment industry catch on and stop being used for publicity?
Don't hold you breathe on that one Jamie.
Tim seeks to distance himself from the flatulent film maker:
I know that theaters rent the movie, and therefore, have already paid Mr. Moore most of his take, but I would also bet that Mr. Moore would also get a percentage of the total receipts, so I refuse to go see the movie because giving Mr. Moore one penny of my hard-earned money only encourages him to produce more senseless drivel. Plus, I wouldn't want anyone to see me walk into the theater to see it, either.
But I have a little history with Mr. Moore, albeit pretty removed. Like Mr. Moore, I too, am from Flint, Michigan. When Roger and Me came out, I was living in Colorado, and I wasn't much into documentary films or TV programs, so I didn't bother to see it at the theater. I caught it later on cable or someone rented it and left it for me to watch. I doubted anyone would take it seriously. But whenever I would meet someone new and the conversation turned to hometowns, and they would learn I'm from Flint, they would ask if I'd seen Roger and Me, and say wasn't that a great film. I would respond that no, it wasn't a great film, or even documentary, and I would explain that Mr. Moore didn't show Flint or its residents in an honest setting, that the film and the people in it were distorted from the truth.
Now when I go home to visit, and the conversation turns to where do I currently live, I reply Parker, which is a little south of Denver. Often, the next question is, "Is Parker near Littleton, where that Michael Moore documentary "Bowling For Columbine" was filmed? Did you see that film? Wasn't it great?"
Geez, I can't get away from the guy. I'm glad he's moved onto a more national scene. Hopefully, the brighter lights will show him for the crackpot and purveyor of lies that he is and his fifteen minutes of fame will quickly expire.
His fifteen minutes was up years ago. Unfortunately, I think we'll be subject to his silliness for years to come.
I don't think I'm going to see Fahrenheit 911. Sure, I'm an advocate of witnessing cultural phenomenon, especially those I'm bothering to criticize. But from the numerous reviews I've read, I'm not sure my mental health and my felony free criminal record would survive sitting through this thing.
I love documentary film, and the man does violence to the genre with his gimmickry, sleight of hand, and intentional distortions of the truth. I know every documentary has to have a point of view, and I respect that. But in order for a documentary to have any merit, it's got to be as close to the truth as you can possible make it. Otherwise I might as well go see Harry Potter. And his reliance on the ambush interview with selective editing drives me nuts. It's local TV news, Candid Camera level artistry. It's ridiculously easy and lazy, and the guy is hauling down Oscars and Palm d'Ors for it. Just because he hates America as much as the elites doing the voting. It's shameful and I suspect these awards will someday be irrefutable historical evidence of the twisted, corrupt nature of our elites during this strange time.
It's clear to me that this movie has no merit, beyond giving a perverse thrill to those who wish it all to be true. It's like liberal pornography. Obscene fantasy sequences meant to give them prurient pleasure and nothing more. Michael Moore is printing testimonial letters on his Web site and most of them read like a political Penthouse Forum. Excerpts:
... there were hundreds of people lined up, and the announcement was blaring that the next two shows were sold out, and that the only one left available was the 10:30 p.m. Show. A massive GROAN went out.
Just wanted to say that we went to the showing this afternoon at the Grand Lake Theater, and it was sold out. The line stretched for blocks and, thankfully, some of the media were there to see it. It give me shivers, and it gives me hope.
We loved it. You did a great job. The theater applauded at the close of the movie. I wish we still had reporters with enough balls to report the real news instead of the butt kissers we have now.
I personally was overwhelmed with emotions and moved by this
I had goose bumps all over my entire body!!
What really hit home to me, however, was the fact that you touched my friends. They may still be Republican, but they are reconsidering voting for Bush. As I told them, the opinions may be yours, but the facts are irrefutable and hold true. We laughed, cried, and were inspired. Thank you.
We all laughed and cried, applauded and gasped together. ... but the way you put it together, your humor and your humanity, your integrity and dedication to the truth....this has touched us all.
I supported their cause by buying some "Re-defeat Bush" paraphenalia including a "Re-defeat Bush" condom (so we don't get screwed again!).
I absolutely adore this movie. And I say to anyone, you cannot walk away from this movie without being effected. Even if you close your ears to all the facts, the images will live with you forever.
That last line sounds more like a threat than a testimonial. Images from some piece of partisan propaganda living with you for the rest of your life? Leni Riefenstahl should be so lucky. And if I'm going to have pornographic images live in my mind forever, I'd prefer them to include some breasts. (And not those of Michael Moore, triple D's though they may be.)
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
My intentional avoidance of all things Clinton related is equalled only by my aversion to discussing Michael Moore and the guano he produces that amazingly continues to qualify as documentaries, but I read something today that made me laugh out loud.
In defiance of the Motion Picture Association of America's refusal to remove the "R" rating from his latest work of fiction, Moore said this:
"I encourage all teenagers to come see my movie, by any means necessary. If you need me to sneak you in, let me know."
After a stop at H. Dumpty's for a trench coat large enough to conceal his ever expanding waistline, I do believe Mr. Moore could sneak an entire grade school past the ticket booth.
Monday, January 20, 2003
I attended a dinner party this weekend with the ostensible purpose of watching the Godfather DVD my brother had scored for Christmas. Somehow, after many cocktails of various incarnations, the subject of funny movies came up. I mentioned that I thought Dumb and Dumber was one of the most brilliant and yes, one of the funniest movies ever made.
I was met with comments like "It was okay" or "That was one of the stupidest movies I've ever seen". Finding it hard to fathom how someone couldn't laugh out loud at a minimum of 25 times during the film, I inquired what they thought a good "funny" movie was.
Someone mentioned Dr. Strangelove.
Funny? Really? Yes, I was told, this was a laugh out loud affair. With character names like Buck Turgidson, Jack D. Ripper, Bat Guano and General Faceman I now see their point. What they explained to me was that this was a brilliant satire of the entire military industrial complex. They explained that there was this thing called the Cold War, where the US had, as Jimmy Carter referred to it, an "Irrational fear of communism". Well this movie poked a giant hole in that! Yes, they went on, it showed how crazy this whole arms race was and how we were all doomed to a world of nuclear annihilation. Or, as Roger Ebert put it:
...a film that pulled the rug out from under the Cold War by arguing that if a "nuclear deterrent" destroys all life on Earth, it is hard to say exactly what it has deterred.
I guess Roger Ebert (and just about everyone else who loves this movie) thought the cold war was simply a conceit, an invention by those in power to enrich their brothers on the industrial side of the complex. It seems having an understanding such as this is important if you think this movie funny.
Apparently, you also have to understand subtle humor as one long-winded reviewer tells us:
Kubrick's picture has so many targets that it's difficult to know where to begin. Certainly, the "balance of power" nuclear deterrent policy gets the most obvious jabs (although ardent supporters may not see this -- Dr. Strangelove's attacks are subtle enough that it's possible for an unsophisticated viewer to miss the point). Parodying the "missile gap" at the heart of the arms race, we are given the "doomsday gap" and the "mine shaft gap."
What about the humor gap? From all the glowing praise I have read (and from my own bored viewing of this film as well) this movie is all about subtext and sneer. Nothing is actually funny for funny's sake--it's funny because smart people understand that "those in charge are the craziest ones of all and they are holding the fate of everyone else in their weak hands" to quote another reviewer.
Satire is never going to be as funny as plain, old fashioned humor, (the site of Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels on the frozen minibike for example in Dumb and Dumber) because the viewer has much more work to do than to just laugh at the absurdity of something. With satire they have to proclaim "Yes, I see what you are doing there! I am with you! No, this isn't over my head. Bat Guano, isn't that bat shit? And the guy is supposed to be a man of respect? My laughing is the only way I know to socially signify that I'm with you".
No, the audience probably doesn't LAUGH as much, but there seems to be a deep sense of self-satisfaction concomitant with liking this movie. By proclaiming your undying love for Strange, you are telling the world that you aint one of them NASCAR-watchin', Bud Light chuggin', country music listenin' people who think things is just funny--you're in on the joke!
In the film, when General Jack D. Ripper (God help us) becomes convinced that the Soviets are poisoning the "purity and essence of our natural fluids" there's nothing inherently funny at work. But the subtext, ah the subtext is where the laughs are to be found since the US government told so many lies about the evils of communism during the cold war this deftly concludes why there really was no danger at all.
To say that Strange is held in high regard by just about everyone is an incredible understatement. Filmcritic.com cites it as the number one movie of All Time and Rotten Tomatoes, a site with a collection of reviews, gives it an overall 9.7 out of 10, and it routinely makes the Top Ten lists of movie critics.
The only review I could find that even remotely suggested that this might not be the Crowning Achievement of Film was from the original review of the movie that ran in the New York Times in 1964:
...On the other hand, I am troubled by the feeling, which runs all through the film, of discredit and even contempt for our whole defense establishment, up to and even including the hypothetical Commander in Chief.
But when virtually everybody turns up stupid or insane--or, what is worse, psychopathic--I want to know what this picture proves. The President, played by Peter Sellers with a shiny bald head, is a dolt, whining and unavailing with the nation in a life-or-death spot. But worse yet, his technical expert, Dr. Strangelove, whom Mr. Sellers also plays, is a devious and noxious ex- German whose mechanical arm insists on making the Nazi salute.
The ultimate touch of ghoulish humor is when we see the bomb actually going off, dropped on some point in Russia, and a jazzy sound track comes in with a cheerful melodic rendition of "We'll Meet Again Some Sunny Day." Somehow, to me, it isn't funny. It is malefic and sick.
Thursday, November 28, 2002
I haven't seen Bowling for Columbine yet, but I will. It endeavors to deal with a topic I find of interest and I recognize the ability of Moore to effectively utilize propaganda to make a point, at least among his core constituency. But I will have to wait until I can be assured of being with an audience not prone to using derisive laughter as social commentary. Yes, you self-anointed cognitive elite of Uptown and Dinkytown, we know you agree with the dubious conclusions and broad, hoary clichés presented in the film, you don't have to repeatedly announce it to me by loudly gurgling your phony laughter in my ears! (Sorry to yell, but my recent experience in viewing The Trials of Henry Kissinger at U Film Society has left my nerves kind of raw on this matter.)
In any regard, I think the sun may have finally set on any pretense of credibility for Moore's tactics and conclusions. The wanna be National Review of the Left, The American Prospect, has a damning review by Garance Franka Rute, called Moore's the Pity. And listen up Michael Moore, when your natural constituency (that is people with names like Garance Franka Rute) turns on you, it's time to consider another career.
While she credits Moore for approaching the topic with an open mind (which is way too charitable for anyone who's ever seen a previous example of Moore's work), her specific criticisms focus on the fact that he misses entirely the dynamics of gun violence in the US:
Moore again and again focuses on America's culture of fear, especially fear of young black men, and then blames American political discourse, big corporations and especially television news for creating a climate in which -- to judge by the people in his movie -- uneducated rednecks arm themselves to the teeth, lock their doors and prepare for an invasion by the black "hordes." And then he leaves it at that.
Though liberals have doubtless cheered this movie in part for focusing on crazy white people with guns instead of the usual stereotypes about violent minorities, there is no way that a movie that so completely elides the devastating impact of gun violence on blacks and cities can arrive at anything like a reasonable portrait of America, let alone a valid conclusion about the causes of gun violence.
There is a point at which an effort not to perpetuate offensive stereotypes turns into an impoverishing erasure of the facts. So here are some facts to chew on, courtesy of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the U.S. Department of Justice: In 2000, 16,586 people in America took their own lives with guns; 10,801 were murdered by others firing them. Despite making up only 12 percent of the population, blacks constituted 53 percent of the gun-murder victims or 5,699 people, in 2000. Young black men ages 14-24 make up only 1 percent of the U.S. population but around 15 percent of the murder victims. Nor are Moore's suburban white gun owners, no matter how ridiculous their fears, the reason that black Americans were six times more likely to be murdered than whites in 1999, and seven times more likely to commit homicides.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the theaters comes news that Michael Moore has a new movie out titled 'Bowling For Columbine'. Apparently his recent book 'Stupid White Men' ( No link provided. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to ever buy this book. If you never knew of the existence of this book your life would be better. For further proof read James Lileks Screed on it.) wasn't enough to raise the bile in the throats of every decent rational thinking American. No, now we must be subjected to an anti-gun documentary sure to be filled with the hoariest of clichés and the weakest of arguments. Please God no Moore.
I have to admit that once upon a time I thought Moore was funny. Back in my college days I watched his first film 'Roger and Me' a number of times and found his populist critique of GM clever and daring. Why? Well, as one of the Soprano's might say I was "fookin' stoopid". The problem with being stupid is that you don't realize that you are until years later, if at all. Hell, during my college years I thought drinking a liter of cheap vodka until I threw up or passed out or both was funny. Fortunately I believe that I have grown wiser and more mature with age ( though there may be a few who would argue this point ) and no longer consider myself a member of the "fookin' stoopid" crowd. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Michael Moore.
If you are interested and a glutton for punishment you can check out the synopsis of the movie . But if you really want to know what's going on it's probably best to hear from Moore himself and read his latest Mike's Message. Here are some choice excerpts:
I am very happy and excited to tell you that this Friday, October 11, my new film, "Bowling for Columbine," will open in New York and Los Angeles.
So buy your tickets now.
It is, I promise, the last thing the Bushies want projected on the movie screens across America this week. The film is, first and foremost, a devastating indictment of the violence that is done in our name for profit and power -- and no one, in all the advance screenings I have attended, has left the theatre with anything short of rage. I truly believe this film has the potential to rock the nation and get people energized to do something.
Yes, I'm sure the administration will spend many a sleepless night wondering how to counter this "devastating indictment". Be prepared, for the nation will shortly be rocked and people may "do something".
This is not good news for Junior and Company. Not when they are trying to drag us into another war. Not when a crazed sniper is exercising his constitutional right to own a high-powered rifle. Not when John Ashcroft is still prohibiting the FBI from looking through the gun background check files to see if any of the 19 hijackers or their associates purchased any weapons prior to 9/11 -- because THAT, we are told,
would "violate" these terrorists' sacred Second Amendment rights!
Junior? Oh yeah, 'cause of his Dad and everything. Wow now that's funny. One can only hope the movie is able to equal such sharp edged wit as Moore displays here. And if you were wondering who was really resposnsible for 9/11 you now know. The NRA. I guess it makes sense right?
Yes, I believe this movie can create a lot of havoc -- but I will need ALL of you to help me do this. Are you game?
Of course we are. I mean the whole point of making a movie is to "create a lot of havoc" isn't it? Where can I get my ticket?
Now I would like to ask you again to help me with my latest work, "Bowling for Columbine." It's a movie that many critics have already called my best film to date. They may be right. It is certainly the most provocative thing I have ever done. I have spent three years on it and, I have to say, it cuts deeper, harder and funnier that anything I have given you so far.
It's obvious that Moore does not suffer from a lack of self esteem. But can it really cut deeper, harder, and funnier than 'Canadian Bacon'?
The movie opens this Friday in New York and Los Angeles, and then in 8 more cities next week. How it does in these first ten cities will determine whether or not the rest of the country gets to see it. That is the nutty way our films are released. If it doesn't have a big opening weekend, you can kiss the film good-bye. Therefore, this weekend, this film must be seen by millions of Americans. Can you help me make that happen?
In other words can you help me make millions by shelling out $8 for a movie ticket?
"Bowling for Columbine" is not a film simply about guns or school shootings. That is only the starting point for my 2-hour journey into the dark soul of a country that is both victim and master of an enormous amount of violence, both at home and around the world. With this movie I have broadened my canvas to paint a portrait of our nation at the beginning of the 21st century, a nation that seems hell-bent on killing first and asking questions later. It is a movie about the state sponsored acts of violence and terrorism against our own poor, and how we have created a culture of fear that is based on the racial dilemma we continue to ignore. And it's a devastating comedy.
You see, Michael is so much more than merely a movie director. He's an artist. And I don't know about you but what could be funnier than a look at the violence, terrorism, and racism perpetrated by the American government against it's own people? I'm cracking up just thinking about it. Just in case the critics might miss it Moore helpfully points out that his film is a "devastating comedy". Devastating must be the word of the day for him. Good thing he can be so objective about his work.
This film is going to upset some pretty big apple carts. No film has EVER said the things I am saying in "Bowling for Columbine." I expect to be attacked. I expect certain theatres will not show it for fear of retribution. I expect that this movie will be a bitter pill for many to swallow.
Okay the arrogance of this prick is starting to get to me. Exactly what "big apple carts" are going to be upset here anyway? His delusions of grandeur are laughable. Notice the prevalence of the word I in his writing. And he's already clamoring for martyr status before anyone has even thought about picking up a stone.
This is why I need your help. Movies live or die based on what happens at the box office the first weekend of its release. I need you, if you live in the New York or L.A. area, to go see "Bowling for Columbine" this Friday and Saturday -- and take as many family members and friends with you as possible. I guarantee you will not be disappointed -- and you may just see one of the best films of the year.
And then buy my book, feed my dog, and take out my trash. Please make as much money for me as you possibly can. The inflated ego of this guy is just sickening.
The hate mail, the threats, the promises of retribution have already started to roll in to the distributor of this movie, United Artists. They are not backing down. But how long will this last? I need all of you in the New York tri-state and southern California areas to go see "Bowling for Columbine" THIS weekend -- the rest of you can see it in a couple of weeks when it comes to your town. A strong opening not only means that the rest of America will see this film, it means that a good number of people who see it are going to leave the film angry enough to get active and get involved. If it does poorly, I will have a difficult time finding the funding for the movie I want to make next -- a film about 9/11 and how Bush is using that tragic day as a cover for his right-wing agenda.
Another shameless plug, actually more like a shameless plea to buy movie tickets. What a sad day it will be for America if Moore is unable to make his next "devastatingly funny" film on 9/11. How will the Republic survive?
Don't let that happen. Don't let the NRA have one more success by stopping the wider distribution of this movie. And, together, let us not remain silent in our opposition to Bush's phony war against Iraq.
Ahhh... yes if all else fails invoke the specter of the evil NRA. If you don't go see this movie then the NRA wins. What good lefty could refuse this call to duty? I am a bit confused on the "Bush's phony war against Iraq" line. Is it phony because there is no war right now? Or does he mean "phony" in that the war-which actually hasn't started-is somehow illegitimate? Perhaps another "devastatingly funny" film is in the works to clear this matter up. Or maybe 'Bowling for Columbine' will be crushed by the the vast right wing conspiracy led by the oppressive Bush administration and Michael Moore will be forced to peddle his biting insights elsewhere. One can only hope. No Moore, no mas.
Thursday, September 05, 2002
As I'm officially on record as recommending the movie "Signs" to a few friends, I feel compelled to clarify a couple of points, so as not to be pilloried by those critics who would seek to hoist me by my own petard, based on an incomplete understanding of my perspective (and you know who you are--Tyrell Ventura).
The strength of the movie is the direction by M. Night Shyamalan. He is truly masterful in creating suspense and in triggering and manipulating the audience's emotions. He's able to evoke a slight degree of anxiety and tension, then to sustain and build on it slowly, step by step, then bring it to a rushing crescendo, through sound and images, and then finally easing up ever so slightly or letting it drop in a free fall. If you let yourself go, to be simply swept up in the provoked emotions (and you allow yourself to forget some of the logical inconsistencies and politically untenable assumptions of the script), it's literally a wild ride.
Watching this movie, you feel like you're in the hands of a master, confident that he knows exactly what he's doing and confident that you can trust his instincts and judgment. This contrasts to the cheapened feeling you get in a run of the mill Tarantino derivative. In these types of movies, you feel like you're in the hands of an immoral lunatic or a sadist, where tension is only achieved through the pointing of a gun directly into the camera lens or into the face of the protagonist and where suspense is replaced by gratuitous violence and gore. I guess some people appreciate this, but it's come to repulse me.
Another pleasure of the movie was the subtle and not so subtle references made to sci-fi classics of the past, including Night of the Living Dead, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Predator (which is not a classic). This respect for the history of the genre, which will be noticed only by those who respect such history themselves, adds context and texture and intimacy to the whole experience of watching it.
Once again, the movie has some serious flaws, which aren't fully realized until the last 10 minutes. I don't want to give anything away, but I think it?s fair to state that the conclusion is a very blunt and literal presentation of the mysterious phenomena portrayed in the rest of the film. As most of the movie dealt with issues of faith, and how different people can interpret the same set of facts in different ways, that's how the movie should have ended as well. The existence of aliens on Earth should have been left intentionally ambiguous at the movie's conclusion, and the actions of the main characters throughout the film should have ultimately been judged in this spirit.
After the movie I came to realize that while watching it (at the Grandview, and flanked by a beautiful red-headed Bridget Fonda look-a-like, sharing MY popcorn) I was so enamored by the movie I wanted to see, that I was overlooking evidence that it was not entirely leading up to where I thought it should go. That is until the last 10 minutes, whereby it all fell apart, and I couldn't fool myself any longer. This kind of doppelganger movie experience does prevent me from giving an entirely fair review to what the actual movie consisted of and it may prevent anyone else from appreciating it as I did. But since I ain't no Roger Ebert, and nothing is really depending on my accurate recommendation (except for the hard earned 7 bucks of all those intelligent enough to listen to me), it stands as it is. Welcome to MY world (but stay away from my popcorn).
Tuesday, September 03, 2002
In the spirit of Labor Day and seduced by the grandiose adjectives used in its advertisement, I went and saw the 3-hour long, abstract documentary about the decline of Left, entitled "A Grin Without a Cat" at the Oak Street Cinema. It was directed by someone named Chris Marker. According to reports he's French, so I assume his last name is pronounced "Mahr-Khair." (And I wish someday I'm in the position of introducing Mr. Marker to a crowd of people, whereby I will pronounce it Anglicized as "Mark-er," he'll indignantly correct me with "mahr-khair!" and I will reply "gesundheit.")
I knew going in that the radically pro-Marxist text and extreme Leftist conclusions of this movie would be contrary, and probably offensive, to my political sensibilities. In other words, it was going to be something similar to American Beauty. I certainly didn't want to be subjected to that torturous experience again (who would?), but I hoped other ancillary benefits would be present. Specifically, I hoped this documentary would contain film footage of historical events that I hadn't seen before and from which I could draw my own conclusions. I wanted to see some of the icons of the left, presented in all of their glory, doing whatever it was they did to achieve their status. For example, I'd like to see footage of Che Guevara giving a speech (or just sitting down and modeling for his line of t-shirts). I'd like to see Mao Tse Tung encouraging his gray pajama-clad minions to arrest anyone with a college degree or wearing eye glasses. Or perhaps just witness Ed Asner presiding over a meeting of the Screen Actor's Guild, circa 1977.
Given the source of the film's images was purported to be "footage that ranges from TV reports to propaganda to guerilla newsreels" and given Senor Marker's ethnicity and probable reliance on foreign media, I had confidence that I would see new images of old events. And, to some extent this was true. There was indeed footage of Che Guevara, not actually talking, but strutting around jungles in Cuba, the Congo, and Bolivia (with a voice over narration by none other than Fidel Castro). There also was footage of his dead body lying in state at some rural hospital in Bolivia, which was briefly riveting (and that image cries out to be made into a t-shirt or at least the back pocket design on a pair of acid washed jeans).
Another scene of note opened the movie. In cockpit camera footage of American pilots on a bombing run in Vietnam. They were attempting to destroy an enemy base in the jungle though the dropping of ordinance. The immediate impression I came away with was how difficult this job was. Flying at even low altitudes, the jungle seemed enormous, and trying to hit a couple of buildings, while rushing by at several hundred miles per hour seemed near impossible. (Of course, these were before the days of smart bombs.) I'm not sure of what the success rate was of such a mission, but most certainly it was low. I think this explains why the pilot featured in the movie seemed so happy, almost giddy, when he saw people running about after his bombs hit. Granted, his enthusiasm and pronouncement "boy this is fun!" seemed in poor taste. And the movie was using these images to portray the pilot, and the society which bred him, as evil and inhuman. But to me that reaction was entirely human. This was a veteran pilot, clearly desensitized to the task he was engaged in, doing a difficult job with few opportunities to confirm success. It seemed almost any soldier, in any war (even the "good" wars), would have reacted similarly. Yes, he was killing people and then celebrating, something generally frowned upon by the Christian God (as well as Chris Marker). And on a superficial level it is an incongruity. But when you consider his personal context and you consider that those he was killing were involved in a campaign that would ultimately lead to the deaths and suffering of millions of innocents, well then his actions and his enthusiasm are understandable, and can even be considered heroic.
Unfortunately, most of the movie did not provide such clear cut opportunities for identifying the logical flaws of the socialist movement. Huge tracts of time were consumed with footage of speeches from events such as the 1967 Central Committee Meeting of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party or of some obscure German Communist opining on the true causes of a rift that formed between two other obscure Communists involved in the Hungarian Postal Worker Revolt of 1954. There was also much time devoted to a series of student uprisings in the streets of Paris, which occurred sometime in the 1960s. The film assumed the viewer would know the background, so no time was spent explaining this (and I assume it's not worth investigating, I mean they're French after all). But what was striking was the site of hundreds of youths running around the streets of Paris, throwing rocks, shouting expletives, overturning and burning cars--and all of them wearing fashionably cut sport coats and slacks (really). Again, not knowing the background here, it seemed as if this was some rebellion over the new, wider lapel or a backlash against the growing acceptance of wearing a paisley tie with a pin stripe jacket.
In any regard, after 3 hours plus (including an intermission), several naps, a box of popcorn and about a gallon of diet coke, I emerged from the theater with a palpable sense of....nothingness. Usually movies affect my mood in some way, I'm inspired, thrilled, depressed, enraged. But not this time. I wasn't even inspired to ruminate upon its meaning on the car ride back, in fact it was so unremarkable I clearly remember getting caught up in overanalyzing a Thin Lizzy song on the radio (Who are those boys? Why are they back in town?).
However, the movie has not left me totally unaffected, as I've honestly had nightmares of it the past two nights. They consist of me sitting in a theater watching a black and white movie with a droning, deadly serious narration that goes on interminably. For whatever reason, this produces high anxiety, which is followed by panic when I realize that what I'm doing is totally inconsequential and that it's never, ever going to end. I suspect this is what it's like to be a member of the Wellstone campaign.
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