Tag Archives: movie monday

Movie Monday! Arthur (1981)

With a side of angry.

I’ll admit it: I make snap judgments. I see some guy wearing a polo shirt and a baseball cap with an unbent brim, and the first word that springs to mind starts with a “d” and ends with the word “bag.” If I see some pudgy Hispanic girl waddling down the street in pants four times too small, my mind will immediately jump to something pessimistic and cynical about the state of the world at large. Hey, I can’t help it, it’s part of who I am. Coincidentally, I could have some kind of psychological problem, but I’m far too stubborn and cheap to hire a shrink. Good times!
What I’m laboriously trying to bring across is that I am far from perfect, and that every once in a while that quiet, mousey church girl can be giggling next to you listening to Chris Rock’s stand-up or Monty Python. Every once in a while the guttural, death metal roar comes from a very nice young gentleman who also likes listening to Louis Armstrong. Every once in a while, the sweet, moral church ladies will stab you in the back. Snap judgments, even if they are right 99% of the time, are still wrong sometimes. So, based on what I saw of the Arthur (that being scattered clips from The Critic), I was fully expecting the main character to be utterly unlikeable, and for the movie to be some kind of celebration of the boozed-up, playboy lifestyle.
It is not.
No, the movie is actually quite good in both its humor at Dudley Moore’s drunken antics and in the almost subsequent, very nearly simultaneous heart-rending tragedy of this man’s life. The titular character has never had to work, never had any responsibility. Anything he wants, he gets. And yet, as you see him cavort and slur his speech, you find yourself wanting to cry as often as you want to laugh. I know people like this, and so do you: adult children who, by some reason, still live their lives as if the entire world is their plaything, void of responsibility or good sense. In some cases, these people wind up dead, or permanently incapacitated as a result of their foolish ways. In more frustrating cases, a stupid, reactionary, spoiled child of East-coast wealth can grow up to be President of the United States. In the best of cases, however, there is a kind soul, an infinitely patient person who by hook or crook manages to keep the idiot manchild on the straight and narrow.
What keeps the film from being a complete travesty is the one character who keeps Arthur somewhere on the middle path, not technically succeeding, but not in the morgue. That character is the butler Hobson, played by the infinitely lauded John Gielgud, a man often mentioned in the same breath as Laurence Olivier. Without this character, the movie would fail, much like Johnny Depp’s turn in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Without this man doing this role as only he could, this movie would not be a success. His quiet passion and warm, yet firm discipline is truly one of those remarkable performances that affects the viewer at its core. At age 77, Gielgud made this movie into something special and set the bar so devastatingly high that there is no way the remake could possibly match the intensity, strength, and  compassion he put forward. Gielgud? Try GielGOD.

ALL HAIL

Oh, please… must you fuss?

Yes, Mr. Gielgud. I must.
As wonderful as the movie was (Liza Minelli is growing on me, especially after the Snickers commercial), I can’t quite let this review off without a little bit of the old Willy & Eric signature hate. You see, in 1981 the character of Arthur: slovenly, self-absorbed, obsessive over trivial matters… this was considered an archetype of the idle rich, and something the average person could  point at and go “thank goodness us regular Americans are beyond such frippery” and then go back to the Bessemer Process or AIDS research or something no doubt noble and divine. Sadly, this is no longer the case just for the shockingly wealthy, this poisonous lifestyle has trickled down into the base of our society, turning almost all of us into smug, self-assured Arthurs of our own personal paradise. What is the cause for this? They are legion, but one of the greatest offenders is that social juggernaut known only as… Facebook.

He is looking right at the word with the proper amount of scorn and piss.

You see, Facebook is not real life. Facebook is not Heaven. Facebook is one of the earliest circles of Hell, wherein you are catered to upon your every whim, a God of your own universe, but the sad truth is that it is all an illusion, and that it does not matter, and that the minute you logged out, you’re just a worthless piece of garbage again. So, why not stay on it all the time? Why not draw all of the attention to yourself? Why not take everything written about someone else, and warp it into being about YOU instead? I mean, hey, you’re God, why SHOULDN’T everyone be talking about you? Where’s Poochie?
This is just a symptom of a larger problem: self-deification. When one is the God of their own universe, one could ask, there can be no one better. When the smallest hardship happens in the lives of these demi-Gods, it is inflated to ridiculous proportions and the blame is usually laid at the feet of some sort of trickster demon. The sad reality is that, like Arthur, most of these people have become the items of their own demolition, and sadly they shy away from the helpful Hobsons in their lives who wish to help them. There’s a particular scene in the movie wherein Arthur is having a sulk that sounds directly ripped from the average status message of a mewling Facebook fool. Also note that he is making these complaints after exiting a racing car following a private trip around a speedway. This is a transcript of the following scene, courtesy of IMDB:

Arthur: I could love somebody… I never got to love anybody. What do I have to live for? I mean, I’m a failure at everything I do, I’m just in everyone’s way.
Hobson: Would you remove your helmet, please?
Arthur: Why?
Hobson: Please.
[Arthur hands him his helmet]
Hobson: Thank you. Now your goggles.
Arthur: Why?
Hobson: Please.
[Arthur hands him his goggles]
Hobson: Thank you.
[slaps him across the face repeatedly]
Hobson: You spoiled little bastard! You’re a man who has everything, haven’t you, but that’s not enough. You feel unloved, Arthur, welcome to the world. Everyone is unloved. Now stop feeling sorry for yourself. And incidentally, I love you.

In this world of Arthurs, we need more loving Hobsons to start slapping. After all, if you can’t believe the words of the GielGod, who can you believe?
Until we meet again, I tenderly remain,
Eric.

Movie Monday! Donovan’s Reef

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

Even though I missed a St. Patrick’s Day viewing of The Quiet Man, I figured I could make it up to the Church of the Duke by plopping down in front of a John Wayne movie I’d never seen before, and just in time for Easter, where John Wayne will rise from the grave to show his grace upon those who excused him for making The Conqueror. Yes, that sounds a bit silly, but growing up with my Dad, you might have thought John Wayne was the fourth part of the Sign of the Cross. In fact, I’m sure as soon as this review gets posted I’ll have both of my parents telling me whether or not they have seen Donovan’s Reef, and whether or not it measures up to McLintock! or Rooster Cogburn. As far as that remake they just did of True Grit?

Fill your hands, Jeff Bridges!

I kid, I kid. But you have to admit that John Wayne is awesome. John Wayne and John Ford? Even better. John Wayne, John Ford, and Lee Marvin? Now you’ve got yourself a recipe for Valhalla. Strangely enough, these three bastions of unbridled awesomeness (and Cesar Romero! woo!) come together in this movie not to have a rip-snorting, knock-drown-drag-out manly contest, as one might assume. All of this comes together on a sleepy little south Pacific island to give us, of all things, a morality play on the issue of race.
Now, before you go and start scratching your heads and being all “WTF, yo?” I’ll tell you that this is still a John Wayne movie with Lee Marvin. There is still booze and broads and bullets, except the bullets are made of fists and there’s really only one broad of consequence, and she’d probably kick your Gilhooleys off if you called her a broad. But still… John Wayne! Lee Marvin! They fight, I promise! In fact, the entire opening of the movie is based on how John Wayne and Lee Marvin (as the eponymous Donovan and rascally Gilhooley) always have a big ol’ brawl on both of their birthdays, which just so happen to be December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, and they used to be in the Navy, and… basically it’s an excuse to break beer bottles.

Lee Marvin, Thank God! He’s always drunk and violent.

But soon enough, the plot has to get in gear and it turns out that the island’s philanthropic and beloved sawbones (who I last saw crushing Norm McDonald’s Gilhooley’s in Dirty Work) had some kind of child with some lady back in Boston. Whether it’s an illegitimate or out of wedlock thing is brushed over as quickly as the topless picture in The Rescuers, as this was still 1960s America and you just didn’t talk about thing like that outside of whispered gossip in the church pews. So, the now-all-grown-up daughter of the Doctor packs her big, fancy bags and brings her big, fancy self all the way down to the little spittle of an island. You see, if she can somehow get the Doctor to sign away his considerable inheritance (convenient), the daughter will stand to gain several million dollars, which still meant something in the 1960s but today is about as much as your average black-hearted CEO’s salary bonus for taking a dump, there’s money to be had, so this Uptown Girl heads for Bali Hai to get her check.
As you can assume, there’s the standard “fancy lady gets all ruffled by folk that ain’t into all that spiffyin’ and spanglin” routine, and Elizabeth Allen plays the tsundere here to perfection, starting as the Ice Queen of Beantown but defrosting just in time to get a victory spanking from old John Wayne in a scene that would probably get a director lynched by angry Oprah viewers today. What was it with John Wayne and spanking dames, anyway? I seem to remember that being a major plot point in McLintock! Oh, well. The usual comedic hijinks are found here, all the way down to the implacably pwecious children hollering their lines into the camera like bellicose baby boars, but it’s in some of those kids that the movie really lowers the boom. Remember, this is 1963 when people first watch this. The Civil Right Act wouldn’t be passed until the next year, and here we have a character claiming her half-sister won’t accept her because she’s not white.
I’m dead serious. She actually says “it’s because I’m not white!” and runs off the screen at one point. Turns out the Doctor married Polynesian royalty on the island here (which has a name but I reeeeally don’t want to type it… Haleakaloha, so there) and everyone is worried that the WASPy Bahhston daughter won’t take to the hapa children who are technically her siblings. There’s a whole big scheme concocted where John Wayne says that they are his, leading to more shunning and shaming from the proper folk because there’s no mother to be seen.
This all gets resolved, of course, and there’s some truly touching and poignant moments of race relations that are truly daring for a movie from this era.  Only fourteen years ago, you had the “Happy Talk” from South Pacific, with one tiny song about race that was allowed maybe two minutes and is almost never mentioned again. To move this far on such a sensitive subject, especially guised as a comedy, shows a lot of impressive work from Director John Ford (who still holds the record with 4 Best Director Oscars) and some very forward thinking from the production… and then John Wayne talks about fighting the “Japs” and you’re reminded that nothing is perfect. But hey, if you know your History, those fourteen years were pretty darn big for America as a cultural entity.

Like I said… nobody’s perfect.

Unlike South Pacific, however, I feel like Donovan’s Reef has held up pretty well. The comedy is solid when it’s there, and the more serious moments work in a historical way, even if they would be the fodder of after-school specials or a very special Boy Meets World in this day and age. There are some genuinely fun scenes, some genuinely tense ones, and some genuinely heartwarming ones, most particularly the Christmas celebration in the old dilapidated church. That last one must really be seen to be believed. All in all, I enjoyed the movie: it’s got a great director, a great cast, and a daring story for the time which, while often a little manic/depressive in its thematic content, still works well enough that you’re smiling by the end. It’s one of those good old-timey movies you can watch with at least three generations present, and everyone should enjoy it, much like I enjoyed watching some of John Wayne’s classic stuff when I was a kid. Sure, it got a little tiresome after the fourth or fifth time my Dad wanted to see John Wayne shoot up the black hats, but looking back now I should be happy I was allowed to watch that with my family and share that time with my Dad, as opposed to today’s youth who usually get subjected to some of the worst programming dreck ever thought up by man, beast or bacteriophage.
Give Donovan’s Reef a try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. A lot of old movies don’t hold up, but I think this one does.

Until we meet again, I tenderly remain,

Eric.

Anime Monday! Haruhi Suzumiya

Nothing can prepare you.

Haruhi Suzumiya is my favorite character in anime or manga. Haruhi Suzumiya is my favorite Japanese franchise. Haruhi Suzumiya was probably the woman my wife was most afraid of living up to after our marriage… and she isn’t even real.
So… just who the hay IS this woman?
This woman is the protagonist of the show that did for “slice of life” anime comedy what Evangelion did for the giant mecha-robot genre: completely rewriting the genre into something fresh, new, and mind-blowing, all while having a great deal of love and respect for what came before and being hilariously self-aware of it. Where Eva had people re-thinking life, the universe, and everything because of some bizarre apocalyptic messages, Haruhi manages to get you questioning everything you thought you knew, and everyone around you, because of the actions of a teenage schoolgirl.
It starts off simply enough: there’s a high school, and there are weird inhabitants of said high school. If this sounds anything like one of my other favorite anime shows of all time, Azumanga Daioh, then you’d be absolutely correct. You see, this is how I’d like to see “reality television” take place: you can keep your Survivor and your American Idol, I’d rather have a show about a reality that features people who are screwy in a humorous fashion, not in the fashion that makes you question the very worth of humanity at large. The key aspect of Japanese slice-of-life comedies is that, for as far-out freaky as they get, you can still look around your circle of friends or your office pool and see those people. Sure, they may not be acting as crazy at Tomo or as spacey as Osaka, but you know in your heart that if societal standards were lowered by juuuust that much, you’d be seeing all this crazy skite on a day to day basis.
So… what if, in your average, normal, run of the mill high school setting… someone decided that they were going to make their life like one of those shows, whether everyone else was in on it or not?

Basically, Haruhi is sick of living a normal life. And really, who isn’t? Sorry, I’d much rather fight aliens and tentacled beings from beyond good taste on a daily basis than go back to working in a call center every day. Or maybe the call center was like fighting the tentacles… and losing. Anyway, Haruhi decides that, unlike pretty much everyone else in this seemingly normal world, she’s going to make her life like one of those wacky shows, come hell or high water. Ergo, she begins to recruit the necessary factors for such a life, all of which follow your standard anime tropes. There’s the meek and ridiculously endowed domestic, the impassionate waif girl who speaks in a constant monotone, the mysterious transfer student who also happens to ooze faaaaaabulous out of every pore, and your charismatic leader character, which Haruhi takes to with all of the subtlety of your average fanfic Mary Sue character. But surely you can’t have such an idyllic setup, surely there has to be bumps in the road, trials and tribulations for our makeshift heroes to overcome, yes? Well, unlike the girls of Azumanga, Haruhi isn’t content to just worry about gaining weight or avoiding pervy teachers. Such a well-organized group of anime stock characters should be fighting pan-galactic threats, domestic spy rings, computer-hacking megalomaniacs, dimension-hopping psychopaths, and the like. So, naturally, Haruhi impressed all of her new “friends” into a new, unofficial and very unorthodox school club, designed to make contact with aliens, engage those who have traveled in time, and speak with those who have superhuman gifts.

But then nothing happens.

I’m serious. For the first part of the show, Haruhi keeps looking, but nothing ever really happens. This allows for the true antagonist to shine, a man known only as Kyon, an unreliable narrator if there ever was one. Kyon has given up on his childhood flights of fancy with aliens and space rangers, and has sunk into a nice cynical rut as the quintessential deadpan snarker of AnimeLand. So, to recap, we have an incredibly energetic girl wanting to explore the obscure, a ragtag school clubhouse full of chums, and a narrator who cares more about getting under the skin of the lead than actually accomplishing anything. If you’re starting to think that this sounds like my own personal heaven, and the personal heavens of several geeks, you’re right. I would have been fine laughing at all the crazy, delusional stuff Haruhi tries to make happen in her humdrum life, all while making it perfectly clear that she doesn’t like Kyon, no sir-ee Bob, not at all… but then the show crosses over from your average “borderline mental cases live in a normal world and do wacky stuff” premise to the “holy hell on a hoagie some of the stuff Haruhi wants to happen is actually happening now.” Aliens begin to identify themselves, time travel appears, and espers use their magical powers to defend large parts of Nishinomiya threatened by blobby bad guy… things…

They look like this.

So, why does this all start happening? Why does everything Kyon swear could never happen start happening? Why did this cute little day-to-day story suddenly sink to its armpits in wacked out sci-fi goodness? Well, the answer is muddy: you see, Haruhi might be God, or something like God, or merely have the power to warp reality like Bugs Bunny or Neo from the Matrix. When she’s happy, the world is fine, but when she’s mad (like when Kyon flirst with the buxom domestic mentioned above) you get the blob-men. What’s more important is that, if she does have these powers, she can’t know about it, or the world might go completely topsy-turvy. Instead, the plot quickly shifts to poor Kyon trying to balance all the crazy-as-balls happenings in this new world along with keeping the initially-hostile-but-eventually-defrosting-ice-queen-demi-God-who-may-have-a-crush-on-him-but-won’t-admit-it happy. So, add to the slice of life and sci fi trappings a bit of harem-style romance and the well-worn anime chestnut of “my alien girlfriend,” altered slightly to be more like “my deity girlfriend who could destroy creation if I so much as look at another woman.”
See what I mean when I say it bends genres like silly putty? And through the entire run of both current seasons and one spectacular movie, it continues to challenge what we expect certain anime shows to be and how they should behave, all while giving unique and interesting entertainment in the bargain. I love the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise because it’s everything I want in an anime and several things I didn’t know I was looking for. You know you’ve found a good show when it can catch your eye with an interesting concept or two, ensnare you after the first few episodes, and leave you BEGGING for more when it’s over. Much like the latest My Little Pony cartoon… but perhaps I’ve said too much…

Identify them by their stereotypes, but that’s where the similarities end…

I can even chalk Haruhi up there with The Dark Knight as one of those media experiences that caused me to reflect deeply within myself, in this case asking myself what I really wanted out of life. It’s a rare piece of entertainment that can actually change the way I go about my daily life and, thanks to Haruhi, I know it’s okay to want more out of life, and to not be afraid to take it. I urge anyone and everyone to pickup this show and at least make it through the first six episodes of the first season. I know it sounds silly, but it was a life-changing experience for me. If you get through both seasons and have a chance to see the movie (which will eventually be released over here, I hope) you’re in for an absolute delight. There’s books, too, recently translated and chock full of everything that makes this series stand out. I cannot recommend Suzumiya enough so, if you feel like being brave and trying something new, here’s where you can start.

Marathon Monday! Doctor Who: Season 5

Just when I thought I was out…

As you might have read, I was none too pleased with the way the last season (and the tenure of former show runner Russell T. Davies) ended for everyone’s favorite Gallifreyan. What had begun as a strong tenure with a strong, flawed, but still powerful and delightfully manic Doctor had ended with a simpering, fan-baiting, fan-fiction-saturated couple of episodes that were less about the adventures of the Doctor and more about RTD diddling himself via a television set. One of history’s favorite Doctors went from being a fun-loving, popcorn fueled thrill ride of a program do a dour, badly-written popcorn fart of a program. Go ahead and click the link above to properly see how the end of the last bit of Doctor Who related broadcasting had me in a poorly-spelling, 5AM frenzy of rage.


All set? Everyone comfortable? Then we’ll begin.
Back then, I’d written that Steven Moffat would be hard pressed to write anything worse than RTD’s soul-sucking, scum-sucking swan song. Whovians hailed Moffat as a savior who would bring back the soul of Who… but we really got our hopes up a little too high. Going back and watching some of Moffat’s episodes now really shows some of the cracks in his writing, flaws that were easy to paste over when, well, RTD was writing some truly atrocious stuff. Now, however, we can see the Mr. Moffat is prone to as much disgusting fan-wank and companion worship that RTD was guilty of… but at least it’s better written… as a whole. Seeing Moffat having charge of an entire series does nothing to help his credibility as the best NuWho writer and, if anything, it just brings into a very harsh light all the things that were wrong with his comparitively few stories up to now: questionable decisions, plotting issues, and some of the most truly aggravating characters in Doctor Who since episodes like Paradise Towers. Moffat delivered a better first effort than Davies’ last… but he really would have had to do terrible things to the proverbial pooch to sink below THAT sewage-strewn watermark.
First off, there have been several accusations that Moffat’s writing is a little, well, misogynist. Casting your main companion as a horndog kissagram girl who constantly treats her fiancee like crap and tries to jump the Doctor’s alien bones the night before her own wedding… yeah, not helping yourself, Stevie. I just could not believe Amy crying when she realized she truly did love Rory or some such bollocks. All I believe was that the red-headed nightmare of a character had realized that she might lose her meal ticket in the doting, solidly careered male nurse. Later on in the season, there are several particularly nasty characterizations of women, making them seem very irrational to the point of damning all of humanity to protect their families. I mean, there’s love for loved ones and then there’s just going mondo nuts. One thing I can say positively is that the writing has improved incredibly over RTDs trainwreck trifle of layered plot holes and ridiculous contrivances. Still…
Just because something is written well doesn’t mean that it is well-written. Several of the episodes are wonderful as stand-alone stories, but the season as a whole is downright unpleasant. I watched almost all the episodes in omnibus fashion, which might not work for the show’s weekly timeslot, but repeated DVD viewings would probably almost always be at least two or three at a time, so arguing that you should leave a week between episodes just for everything to calm the ferk down doesn’t exactly ring as glowing praise. The biggest problem with the season as a whole is that Moffat obviously felt the Sword of Damocles hovering over him. He knew that RTD had handed him a big bucket of narrative garbage on the way out, and yet the NuWho fans would still call for his blood if he didn’t pepper the scripts with BuffySpeak and plenty of that RTD charm that worked for all of two years before it began to sound trite and forced. Do you see what I just did there, Russell? I actually DESCRIBED SOMETHING. Do you remember how to do that, or do you just make up funny words whenever you feel too put upon to actually write something coherent? Hack.

You made Jon Pertwee cry.

Season Five of Doctor Who suffers from something I like to call “epic fatigue.” It’s a common problem with most entertainment lately, really. You see, current societal norms have created a world where everyone can get everything with a click of the fingers, so episodic programming can really get the short end of the stick every week. As a result, you see a lot of shows falling into the CSI format of something super-duper-important happening every airing with lots of people looking shocked or sad and possible a deep voiced narrator saying that people WILL FACE THEIR TOUGHEST CHALLENGE YET or FIND THEMSELVES CONFRONTED WITH AN IMPOSSIBLE CHOICE or whatever. It gets to the point where you don’t expect Horatio Caine to go to the bloody refrigerator without tense music stings and over-exposed camera tricks. Should I have leftover chinese… or SOUP? His decision may change your life forever. dun-dun-DUNNNNN. And so on. It’s almost tabloid-like in its desperate attempts to grip viewers, and Who is no exception: worlds crumbling, important people dying, the entirety of existence riding on one incredibly tense and overblown situation… every week. After a while, you stop believing there is any real danger, you get desensitized to all the EPIC music and high stakes, and you start playing the macabre home version of “what likeable character introduced just for this episode will die first?” because you just don’t care anymore. The music is always loud, the fate of all creation is always hanging in the balance, and when celestial eradication becomes your ham ‘n’ eggs… it ceases to be powerful or poignant. However, a dull or over-epicked storyline can be saved if the characters pull it off correctly, but… these don’t.

Bite me, River Song.

You see, something odd has happened to Doctor Who. It’s no longer a show about a mysterious alien who calls himself “The Doctor.” No, it is about boring, everyday schmucks who just happen to be incredibly important to all of time and space… and happen to have wacky adventures with a mysterious alien who calls himself The Doctor. In short, the title character has become a supporting member of his own cast. The character of the Doctor has been watered down and made more and more hip and “human” to the point where he basically resembles a wacky sidekick and not a nearly omnipotent Gallifreyan. Now, some of the more educated nerds might point out that past Doctors, most notably Patrick Troughton, were able to play the buffoon and still be considered quintessentially “Doctorish,” and I would agree. I would also agree that Matt Smith is trying to be Pat Troughton so much it’s making his face warp into a weird, brick-like shape. Unfortunately, the current characterization of the Doctor will never approach the level of a Pat Troughton or even a Peter Davison, once considered the most human of Doctors. A strange transformation has overcome the Doctor since the show was renewed, leaving behind what was once a fairly dry and quintessentially British, if not universally adored, persona for the flash-in-the-pan mainstream success of the currently wacky, shouty, manchild Doctor of current memory.  For some reason, the mainstream audience (which needed to be courted if the revamped show was ever going to survive and change with the times) don’t like their alien protagonists to be, well, alien, and instead want a more cuddly, humanistic Doctor to coo and coddle their poor little minds that get into a tizzy if any SciFi harder than a wet sponge come along their way. This current Doctor is meant to evoke an old man in a young man’s body, but all I can see is a hipster who is trying far too hard to impress some ditzy co-ed. Call me an elitist, but I just don’t care about these companions, and I don’t want to see the Doctor quipping about pop culture or playing out someone’s Electra complex. And this, of course, brings me to…
The companions. God, I hate these new companions. From Rose to Amy and everything inbetween, the companions are the single worst thing about NuWho. They clog up the show with unnecessary family and life drama, they draw all of the focus of the show onto themselves, they are all apparently God prophecies or at least some kind of key puzzle to the makeup of the universe and, of course, the Doctor can’t stop gobbing off about how awesome possum each one of them is. In fan fiction circles, we call this a “Mary Sue,” named after a famous piece of Star Trek fanfiction from back in the day, but the problem with the NuWho companions goes far beyond simple Mary Sue qualities. There is something very disturbing when my SciFi show spends more time pissing around with an engaged couple and their strife than, you know, actually doing something with Science and Fiction. If I wanted to watch pretty people bitch about their boyfriends, I’d get a lobotomy and watch Friends. When I watch Doctor Who, I want some goddam Science Fiction. Maybe not the hardest stuff on the block, but still good, old-fashioned science fiction. I don’t want to see middle-aged men live out their dreams of being the Doctor’s BFF (through female characters, oddly enough, which leads one to wonder about some of these male writers) and create these black holes of storytelling, forcing us to believe that these people are important. They aren’t. The show isn’t called Redhead with Legs Faffs About in a Police Box, it’s called #$%!ing Doctor Who. I’m a true Whovian, I’m not some dilettante who is desperate for Joss Whedon’s table scraps, I want to see a SciFi show that focuses on the Doctor. I don’t want to be told to identify with the lame, whining author insertion companions, I want to identify with the goddam Doctor. Maybe I’m in the minority on this, but the focus on annoying side characters while the Doctor plays Slumber Party with the Humans is not what I want to see. Season Five would have been a lot more interesting if they would have focused on the stories and the MAIN CHARACTER instead of trying to make us swoon over the companions. I will only say this one more time: the companions are side characters. Go back to having the show be about semi-competent SciFi and leave the Buffy pretension to Torchwood. I want my Doctor to be the Doctor, and I want him to take back control of his own show. Please.
The writing is good, but the characters are garbage. I can deal with a bad post-regeneration season (I dealt with it for Sylvester McCoy) but please, Mr. Moffat, bring the noise this year. Forget about pleasing the fickle pop-culture fanbases and remember what kept this show running for 26 years in the olden days. If you don’t, I can’t see this series running another five years without some kind of hardship. Everyone thought it was too much of a British institution, but meddling killed it in 1989. The meddling that’s been done to the classic show has already stretched credulity to the breaking point, come back from the brink and bring us back the Doctor that snapped at his companions, or did things we couldn’t hope understand, or was just plain… alien. Forget about aesthetics, forget about ratings, and just bring us Doctor Who. There is still time to keep your beloved, thirty-year plus fganbase… but time is running out.

Time will tell… it always does.

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Movie Monday! Drumline

I knew from the DVD cover that this movie wasn’t for me. Why, do you ask?

The white guy? Photoshopped in. Check his leg.


See?!

Basically, it’s your standard prodigy from the streets movie with a little wacky college hi-jinks and a liberal dose of SOUL, if you know what I mean. I’m sorry, but as a white kid who grew up playing NES Play Action Football in the middle of Wisconsin… I just can’t get into a movie like this. It’s not to say that I’m somehow too good for the movie; far from it. I’m very aware of just how lame and “white” I am, and as a result of that when people start pulling out the aw hell naw’s and the y’all’s trippin’s, I just get the feeling that the movie was custom made not to be watched by one of my pasty ilk. It was the true mark of quality in the early In Living Color seasons that they would make fun of everyone equally: in movies like this, I know it’s not being marketed to me, and the movie actively makes that point. They even go so far as to jokingly refer to the white guy up there (who, by the way, only has a small part and is half Pakistani) as “Affirmative Action.” I just got the feeling through the whole movie that I was missing out on something. Even when it gets to the movie’s bread and butter of hot stick-on-skin action (with a drum, you pervs) I still felt like I wasn’t allowed to enjoy it. The movie seemed to be saying Pack up yo’ carpetbag, whiteboy. This ain’t no movie for you.

The drumming is incredible and, speaking as someone who has no instrumental talent, I’m insanely jealous. The band music is good, particularly the stuff held to by the “lame” band director played by Orlando “Show Us Your Can” Jones. You see, he’s lame because he doesn’t want the college band to play hip hop. What a lame-o! Stay out of this movie, Honky! I sat there and watched folk play “Flight of the Bumblebee” on a trumpet, absolutely gobsmacked. That’s an amazing thing to see and hear. But, of course, that’s Uncle Tom’s music, so it’s lame, and so am I. The movie shuts me out again, even though Jones performance is really good. Not good enough to keep me from yelling “There’s always time for lubricant!” once or twice… but still, solid chops here. I can’t say the same for Mr. Mariah Carey, who goes through the movie pursing his lips and swinging the chip on his shoulder around like a damned morning star. If he would just play by the rule once instead of having to be the “talented, but troubled genius” all the time, the movie would have a lot less conflict… and I think I just answered my own question, there.

If you were in band, you’ll love this movie. I was even pleasantly surprised that the big climax was actually a team effort, as opposed to most “inspiring” movies like this where they have the team win… usually due to one person’s success. Nick Cannon did not feature into the final confrontation at all, aside from being un-fired from the band for a THIRD TIME to participate as part of the team. Jeez, how many chances does a kid get? Still, you can tell that the movie really wanted to show how good these bands are… and they are. Watch it for that, if nothing else, and enjoy the usually comical Orland Jones pulling off a surprisingly good serious performance. Unfortunately, every time I started to get invested in the movie some rump-shaking tune would come thumping in, or someone would start deep-frying catfish in their dorm, and I was reminded that this movie wasn’t for me. Which is a shame, because some parts of it are really good.

If you’re a whitey-white-whiteboy like myself, you’ll find yourself watching this movie in Bizarro world, where everything you think would be good is bad and vice versa. But hey, it’s a learning experience for me and it helps me understand just a little bit the world my wife came from and, again, the actual music (that is, the BAND music) is mind-blowingly good at times.

And then some schmucks from BET show up and I’m reminded again. Guess I’d better go back to my showing of State Fair or something. I hate it when a movie is cooler than me.

My Family Portrait.

Movie Monday! Little Women 1994

Have I mentioned that I am heterosexual today?

I kid, I kid. It was actually Luv’s decision to watch it and, as it wasn’t absolutely horrible, I figured I could give it a go as a review. Sure, it may be a bit different from what I usually cover, and it may be a bit… girly, and it may not have any opportunities for me to make fun of Catherine Zeta-Jones… but it was such a surprisingly good movie (not good on its own, mind you, but surprising in that it wasn’t absolutely awful) that I figured I could put my manly man movies into my European Shoulder Bag for a week and talk about it. Especially how, given the week long sulk I just came out of, it would probably be very unmanly for me to not get back on the horse and ride, Postman, ride. So, to sum up: I’m reviewing an unmanly movie in a manly way… or something.

Anyway, Little Women was a book I always knew existed but, outside of the Poe sisters in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I really knew nothing about Beth, Jo, Meg, and Amy. I guess I always figured it was the Civil War version of Beaches, or something, with girls being girly while the men were off doing manly things like having their limbs hacked off en masse. While it is a fairly… how shall I say this… benign sort of American period piece, it isn’t as dry as most of the stuff that comes on public TV around here at about 10PM. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s based in America, and especially in Massachusetts, who at the time had proudly worn “America’s Home of Reactionary Dickheads” label before Texas snatched it away somewhere around the Battle of the Alamo. Still, if you’re expecting this to turn out like Red Dawn or something, your manly faculties will be very disappointed to hear that there is not a single firearm discharged in the entire movie. Still, it would have been pretty boss to see the March girls go to war and, I don’t know, poison Jefferson Davis’ quiche or something. Guy probably ate quiche, you just know he did.

Total quiche-eater.

Anyway, I guess I enjoyed this movie because, as the proud owner of a Flippin’ Useless History Degree (hereafter referred to as my FUHD) seeing these kinds of period dress and sets and goings on in the average life get me all giddy. I’m serious. If I’m going to review Little Women, dammit, I’m going to be completely honest! The costumes are gorgeous, the sets (which look to be on location) are boffo, and the slice of early-Victorian life story is, well… I went to school for things like this. There’s nasty diseases, infant death, old timey cooking methods, horse and buggy, top hats, and giving Johnny Reb a good sousing. Things like actually make me squee (and Luv can tell you it’s true) when I see them used correctly and used to tell a, while familiar, still entertaining story. There’s really not a lot in this film that hasn’t been trod over in other period dramas, but you might be looking at the Ur Example of the American ad bellum novel… at least in the North. In fact, I think if you had the stomach for it (and you might need a FUHD to do so) it would be interesting to watch this film back to back with Gone With The Wind to really get a feel for the extremes brought on by the American Civil War… but I’m going to stop this paragraph before I wind up completely flagellating myself into a Historical stupor.

So the story, being written when it was, is a solid one, and it looks like a dream. But what of the cast? Well, for an all-purposes, Jack-Of-All-Trades nerd like myself, this movie is a damn goldmine. You see, we nerds (we true nerds, we band of brothers) have this amazing ability to turn almost any movie into an entirely new medium called The Riff. You can bet your socks that someone out there has wanted to Riff on Shindler’s List, but doing so would take enormous gumption and a lot of Qui-Gon Jinn jokes. Yes, we nerds can pretty much ruin any movie by using our massive nerd-brains to draw parallels and cast snark over the entire proceedings like Mordenkaiden’s Faithful something-or-other. Observe:

1994’s Little Women is a movie where (Dammit) Janet has four daughters: Mary-Jane Watson (who later grows up in Princess Daisy from the Mario Bros movie), Lydia Deetz, Juliet Capulet, and that lady who was in the Frighteners but I always confuse her for Andi McDowell. The movie is set during the Civil War, where (Dammit) Janet has to raise her kids to be competent, if a little rambunctious, women by the exacting standards of the time. Through various period appropriate adventures (including Amber Atkins almost drowning and Spock’s Mom getting her hair cut short), the little girls all grow into Little Women, and of course get paired off  with some of the charming local fellows: Princess Daisy waltzes off with Batman, Not-Andi-McDowell marries Rocky Dennis from Mask, and Winona decides to leave that bloke with scissors on his hands to marry SATAN.

He had a German accent in Little Women. COINCIDENCE?!

Oh, and Clare Danes doesn’t get to marry anyone, because she gives up on her So-Called Life and kicks the bucket, but not before Baron Munchausen can give her a piano for Christmas.

Movies like Little Women are a geek’s dream come true, because the cast is fully of really talented actors who, while they give a good performances, have also been in other movies that make hilarious corollaries to a period drama. I mean, come on,  who wouldn’t want to see Batman fight Satan for the right to marry the chick from Beetlejuice? And I think someone is not writing a fan-fiction on that very subject now. Also, if you want extra nerd points, you can try to figure out if Christian Bale’s character in this movie would have been the right age to father Christian Bale’s character in Newsies, but… that would mean you would have had to have seen Newsies… and I haven’t… ever… no, really… no, sirree, haven’t seen it… certainly not humming the opening bars to “Sieze the Day” right now, not at all… although I usually like to try singing “Santa Fe” or “King of New York” in Bale’s Batman voice for extra lulz.

Anyway, in closing, Little Women is a good movie, and surprisingly so. I was told by Luv that they cut a lot out of the book to streamline the film, but I really couldn’t tell, and believe me, with some movies you can tell. This leads me either to believe that the movie is incredibly well adapted or edited, or that the book might be a crushing bore if I tried to read it. But what do I know? I’m not a twelve year old girl.

I can’t be any worse than Twilight, anyway.

Until we meet again, I tenderly remain,

Eric.

A Big Congrats to Mr. Bale on his Oscar win last night!

Movie Monday! Super Bowl XLV: Damage Control

Oh yeah. I went there.

If you’ve been reading this for any amount of time (or you can just read my last two posts on the subject), you’ll know that I’ve been very, very unimpressed with the ol’ AFL/NFL Championship Game as of late. In fact, I’ve pretty much been spiteful of every game since 2002, when it started to seem more like the game was being seen as a marketing tool than as an athletic contest. It could even go back to 2000, when grocery-boy Kurt Warner became MVP in a move that sounded like it was rejected from a straight-to-video Disney flop starring French Stewart. Perhaps I’m just growing up, or burning down, or getting even more cynical than I already was (and that’s saying something coming from a guy who rocked out to Barry McGwire when he was eight), but I think I know the true cause for my growing Super Bowl blandness:

Professional Wrestling.

Again, any of you who know me know I just can’t stay away from the stuff like I can’t stay away from any Hardee’s I might see driving down the road. From my early days as a Hulkamaniac to my budding appreciation for the workrate of the luchadores to the absolutely crushing loss of Guerrero and Benoit, I just can’t seem to stop watching, or at least paying attention to, the squared circle. There’s just something addictive (not addicting, you morons) and beautiful about the perfectly executed, stage combat art form of it all. Watching Bret Hart, or Chris Benoit, or Bryan Danielson, or even Johnny Saint if you can find it (and you really should) is like seeing a beautiful moving painting. Say what you will about movie fight choreography, but they can always do another take. These guys are live, and if something goes bahookie, they have to deal with it. I’d like to see Improv Everywhere or ComedySportz start beating the tar out of each other, and make it look convincing. In fact, given some of the people I’ve met that were “improv-ers,” I’d love to see them try to work with Stan Hansen or Big Van Vader sometime.
Anyway, I love pro wrestling. I’ve given serious consideration to finding a school in my area and training a bit. I read the dirt sheets, I catch the independent reaction shows, and I follow the sport… but I barely watch it. I love hearing about it, but after seeing it ruin so many good lives, I feel like I have trouble supporting it. Still, that doesn’t stop me from applying wrestling terms and ideas to my everyday life and one day dreaming of hauling my acrofatic butt to the top rope and attempting Shooting Star Press. But, this causes problems for an already admittedly paranoid individual like myself. If wrestling is predetermined (spoiler: it is), and people bought kayfabe for decades and thought it was real… who’s to say the same won’t happen with other sports, or maybe already has? There was just something about the Kurt Warner story that strained credulity to me. It wasn’t until he struggled in vain against the thuggish Steelers and lost that I figured he was probably a legit good, hardworking guy. But there are other times you just have to scratch your head and go… maybe they could have planned that.

And so, another bloated, lumbering commercialized mass of a celebration has rolled through the American consciousness like that monstrosity in Akira, leaving us with humorous commercials, lackluster halftime shows, butchered national anthems… oh, and there was a football game, too. Once again, the outcome of the game just seems to raise a few red flags with me but, as I said before, I’m probably one tinfoil hat short of a full-on paranoid episode. Much like Warner’s Disneyesque triumph (aired on ABC, a Disney affiliate), or the jingoistic, saccharine overload of the Patriots winning in the wake of 9/11, or the individual (and never conflicting) triumphs of the Manning boys, who proved just a bit shy of perfectly marketable, it seems like the game is almost as much about the merchandising that will follow it than it is about punting pig bladders. The absolute nadir of schlock would have to have been last year, when Katie Couric put on her best “heartfelt/constipation” face and talked to Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints in a pre-game retrospective tailor-flippin-made to tug at your heartstrings and beat the cadence of tabloid-turned-mainstream not-news. Really, did ANYONE think the Saints were not going to win that thing? The PR boons of winning the big one, especially after coming up short the year after Katrina (and painting my Bears as the bad guys, you jerks), would have moistened tears and laps nationwide and given America that false confidence we love to feel so much because it doesn’t actually require any work or deep thought. Yeah, America rules because a ravaged city won a football game. Hoo-bloody-rah.
But let’s not forget the teams painted with the villain brush, as well. Every smart mark like me knows that you need to have a heel win sometimes to give the face a credible challenge. Enter teams like Philadelphia or Chicago or Pittsburgh, teams from the gritty blue-collar underbelly of America who have reputations for playing tough, hard-nosed football and standing in the way of our shining placekicking paladins in their pursuit for truth, justice, a buttload of money and a big shiny football on a stick. To be honest, I can’t even remember who the Saints played last year because, once again, everyone knew in the pit of their hearts that the NFL wouldn’t squander that sacred goodwill cow by letting the plucky “Ain’t’s” lose the game. Still, you do have years where accused stabber Ray Lewis gets all the glory, one twirly moustache short of being depicted as a movie serial villain. Oh, and I just read that the Saints beat the Colts, probably as a punishment to Mr. “Aw, shucks” Peyton Manning for not selling enough Oreos or Wheaties. Like I said, watching pro wrestling gets to ya!

It’s a shoot, brother!

So now, arduously, we’ve come to just this last bout. You may be wondering, if you’re still reading this, why I chose to do this as a Movie Monday. Well, this year’s Super Bowl reminded me of a movie or, more importantly, a sequel. More importantly still, a sequel where a character is cruelly killed off and forgotten completely because the actor demanded one too many olives in his on-the-set tapenade or something. What always makes this more ridiculous in movies (and especially in wrestling) is how people will often just forget that person exists completely: no more mentions of exploits or good times, or even bad times. The person just disappears and is never brought up again so the movie can focus on the new heroes or the supporting characters that were thrust into the hero spotlight because Dan Actorman said something nasty about the director’s wife last year. Sometimes, it’s called Damage Control, and to me, that’s what Super Bowl XLV was: Damage Control. Remember that near-messianic quarterback that was beloved by everyone in Wisconsin except five people and was considered the greatest thing that ever happened ever forever ever? Remember when that beloved QB went and played for another team after a rather messy breakup, prompting many fans to convert like the Muslim schism had just happened? Remember then, when that QB came back and played for a RIVAL team? One state over? And remember when he got in trouble for flirting with some chick and wiggling his expletive deleted in a text message? Remember when that man who was once a pigskin chucking demigod was completely destroyed by the very people that had adored him?
Not anymore, you don’t. ALL HAIL AARON RODGERS.
This is particularly frustrating for me because I was one of the five people saying that Brett Favre was a joke way back when. Packer fans are, well… they’re kind of stupid. Well, not stupid, more like zealots. They simply cannot see another way. Even during the Majkowski when the Packers sucked almost as much as the Bears did, you’d have people proudly proclaiming that they were the best team in the league. The liquor that seems to be distilled from being the only publicly owned team in the NFL must be a potent and bewildering one, because Packer fans live most of their lives in outright denial. Now, with this Super Bowl, the denial is complete, and I wouldn’t be surprised if all the books in Lambeau now have Aaron Rodgers’ name scribbled over the top of another’s in red crayon. You may dismiss this as sour grapes from a rival fan, and rightfully so, but like any true cynic, I don’t go into a fight like this without evidence. If it pleases, Exhibit A.

This is a clip from Mystery Science Theatre 3000 from 1997, the same year the Packers won the Super Bowl under He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Favred. You’ll notice that the scenes are those of mass hysteria, destruction, and mob mentality, and the three hosts of the show are lampooning the scenes of a Giant Spider Invasion by mockingly yelling out “PACKERS WON THE SUPER BOWWWWL!” over the top of it, along with a reference to drunken mob violence. At the worst, this is a deliciously mean-spirited jibe (as the movie was based in Wisconsin), and at the best it is a light-hearted jibe from a Minnesotan who may even be a Packer Backer, but can at least poke a little fun. The rub, however, is found in the YouTube comments, where you will never find a more wretched hive of  scum and bad spelling. You see, Packer fans are so blinded by their faith to this Pagan God of Acme that they see a jibe as a reason to celebrate and be proud. The comments are littered with people echoing the snarky sentiments of the hosts and being proud to be said mob-minded idiots. Basically, hundreds of Packer fans can’t fathom the mockery because they are too busy being proud. I’m pretty sure most major religions would have something to say about  that, but in the cult of Lombardi, it’s A-OK.Exhibit B came in a local magazine I picked up the week after the game. Naturally, being right on the border, all the local businesses were taking ad space to sing the praises of the “hometown” team. One in particular had a small picture of the Chicago Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler in the corner, reading “worthy effort by Jay Cutler.” I was honestly taken aback. As a Bear fan growing up in the middle of Packer country, I was used to Packer fans being the jingoistic dog turds they usually are, and never praising or even acknowledging the work of a worthy opponent, or even an unworthy one. In short, they are playground bully who is all too content to rub your face in the dirt even after your leg is broken. They just don’t care. But here, here was some actual compassion coming from the Green Bay faithful, and for a storied rival, no less! I was honestly touched, I was amazed, my opinion for the whole nation was beginning to turn around… but then I read it a little closer:
“Worthy Effort by Jay QUITler.”

You worthless worms.

TL;DR? The Super Bowl is boring and possibly rigged, the Green Bay Packers have the worst fans in Pro Football, pro wrestling is awesome, and Brett Favre has been, is, and will always be an absolute ponce.

Movie Monday! Falling Down


He’s just keeping an eye out for Catherine Zeta-Jones.

I’ve long said that there are two topics in film that will immediately ensnare my attention: one of them is time travel, and the other is revenge. Because of this, I’ve watched numerous stinkers of both camps (Timeline and Four Brothers chief among each respectively) but I still find myself going back to my cinematic bread and butter like a housewife from COPS, begging that “he’s not like this all the time, honest!” Thankfully, movies get made like Falling Down, which make me love the abusive bastard all over again. Now, your standard revenge movie usually has one major antagonist: he killed someone, ruined a life, stole a woman, whatever. From the six fingered Count Rugen to Inspector Javert to the guy who royally pissed off Edmond Dantes, there are several juicy, delicious parts for career baddies to play in a revenge movie… and boy, do they look like fun. Falling Down, however… Falling Down goes balls-to-the-wall for broke. The main character (Michael Douglas as the man known primarly by his vanity plate nickname of D-FENS) has been fired from his job as a missle contractor following the collapse of those wacky Soviets, and his car’s AC has just died on the hottest day of the year, near Pasadena, in the middle of construction to get on the infamous California freeway. It’s his daughter’s birthday and, restraining order be damned, he is going to make it home to see her. He gets out of his Chevrolet POS and starts the arduous walk across twenty miles of gangland Cali, a honky with a flat top and horn rim glasses, and people had best stay out of his way.


Yeeeeeeah.

You see, Falling Down isn’t a revenge movie with a singular antagonist. In Falling Down, THE ENTIRE FLIPPIN’ WORLD IS THE ANTAGONIST. Don’t tell me you haven’t been there: day in, day out, soul crushing job, traffic, summer heat… you know you’ve just wanted to snap, but that pesky sanity is a hard habit to kick. However, the cocktail of circumstances that affects D-FENS (the movie specifically refuses to cast him as his actual name) would be enough, I would think, to give a Hare Krishna reason to pick up a baseball bat and start swinging… and that is why this movie is AWESOME. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all Mighty Whitey, cube-dwelling power fantasy. The movie is done is such a way that you simultaneously cheer Michael Douglas’ character as he cuts a swath through craptastic California like Sherman marching to the opposite sea. And yet, in the middle of all of this awesome (telling gang members what’s what, chewing out a fast food joint for ugly burgers, taking it to a VERRRRY unsettling Neo-Nazi scumbag) you cry. You can’t help it, but you cry. You hurt. It’s so awesome, but not so awesome that it hurts. It’s awesome, and it hurts, because we’ve all been there, I think, in some way or another. Heck, I’m typing this in a cube farm right now…but I don’t even get a cube. I’ve got a trapezoid, and I have to switch every day. Yeah.
Anyway, the movie. It happens how you think it happens, and it ends how you think it ends… mostly. It’s actually very well written and especially well carried out by director Joel Schumacher, whom some of you may remember from the cinematic holocaust that was Batman & Robin. Turns out the guy can do more than kill movie genres and make so-so Andrew Lloyd Weber adaptations. Who knew? Anyway, the biggest litmus test in this movie is the character of D-FENS who, when done correctly, will make this movie stand out above the slew of generic revenge flicks (which I all love unconditionally, because I’m a fairly angry young man). Ergo, the character of Robert Duvall’s Detective Prendegast, (on his LAST DAY as a cop even!) gives the proper perspective on D-FENS that turns the film into something special and neatly neuters the throbbing satisfaction of revenge that threatens to creep into the movie and turn the viewer into a hearty endorser of, well, a crazy person. As D-FENS himself says, with poignant disbelief during the final confrontation, “I’m the bad guy?” The movie does a fantastic job of making you not want him to be the bad guy, but eventually accepting that yes, he is a bad guy, he is doing bad things, and it was this painful revelation that caused the li’l Charles Bronson in my brain to sit down and weep. Damn it, I want my revenge to not have consequences! I just want that bloody satisfaction! Get me Inigo Montoya, stat!


For extra cuteness.

However, the ending isn’t without it’s little bit of glory for our old, beleaguered anti-hero. In dying, and not killing himself (because come on, even reading this review you know he couldn’t make it through the movie alive) D-FENS has secured that his daughter will get a nice life insurance payout. The character is hard to hate and even harder to love, with one scene featuring the newly-suited up D-FENS (taking a buttload of ordnance from the gang members and some fatigues from the Neo-Nazi in a nice linear bit of “arms escalation”) having a chat with a family he’s currently holding hostage. His words are heartwrenching, and you want to feel for him… but you know you can’t. If anything, this movie taught me something about my love for revenge: it is (aside from a dish best served cold) a theme that is best covered as far away from reality as you can possibly get. To explain… no, explain is too much, let me sum up… Inigo Montoya’s revenge is sweet, and he’s in a fantasy setting which is actually more like a sardonic, taking-the-piss-out-of-fantasy-settings fantasy setting. Therefore, his revenge is sweet. D-FENS, conversely, is portrayed in basically what you would have seen in Gangland, California in the early 90s. The guns are real. His pain is real. Therefore, his revenge is real, and the sad truth about real revenge is that it is very, very sad in terms of both emotion and theme. Additionally, as I said before, the villain is the world and, unlike Scott Pilgrim, when one goes up against the world, the world usually wins. It’s too big of a problem, too big of an adversary and, most importantly, too scattershot. You’ll never win. This film managed to tell me a lot about myself and my angers at the world (mainly that I should try to concentrate them into some kind of hate laser rather than a grenade…although “Hate Grenade” sounds like an AWESOME metal band) and also managed to entertain the heck out of me. It wasn’t the kind of entertaining I get from, say, watching Patrick Ewing hit in the face with a basketball, but more the entertainment I got from The Dark Knight. If you’re the kind of person who can be entertained by having your brain picked like Richard Roundtree’s hair, you’ll enjoy Falling Down. If you’re looking for a generic revenge fantasy bit… might I suggest Four Brothers?


That just makes me want those glasses even more…

Movie Monday Double Feature! Pretty in Pink & Sixteen Candles


Welcome to the 80s… again.

To continue my Hughesification, the wife also brought along DVD rentals of Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles to follow up The Breakfast Club. While the quality of these DVDs is in question (grrr Family Video) the quality of the movies is not. I can see now why John Hughes was given the accolades he was, and I can see why, almost thirty years later, his movies are still being lovingly parodied and deliberaretly ripped off. At the very least, I at least get, like, 40 more of the jokes in Not Another Teen Movie that I didn’t get before… oh, and one more joke from Family Guy.
You might wonder why I’m reviewing these two movies together. I’ve done it before, as a compare and contrast thing, but this time I’m going for something different. You see, I’m glad that my wife settled on the whole "Not-really-the-80s-but-who-cares" Brat Pack Marathon approach to watching these films. Had I watched Pretty in Pink, waited a while, and then seen Sixteen Candles, I probably would be less favorable to both of them. Watching them both within a week, though, gives an interesting insight. Basically, these movies should always be watched in close proximity. When done in such a manner, they sort of congeal into one really good movie. Apart, they are like peanut butter and jelly, cloying in their own respects, but mix them together, and you get Goober Grape, something people near thirty years of age will still gush over in the grocery store. Whether this says something good or bad about both movies is uncertain, but I’m sure they both stood up on their own in their own time (i.e. before everyone and their helper monkey started ripping them off) but today, viewing both of the admittedly short films as a PB&J double feature smash-up is really, really smart.


Don’t act like you’re not drooling.

Why? There’s a few reasons. First and foremost, they are both thematically similar in that they deal with a girl from the "out crowd" and her struggles landing the "hottest guy in school." Second, they both star Molly Ringwald, which helps gives a central point of reference and makes you forget that she’s actually two different people in two different movies. Third, while a similar theme, the two movies couldn’t be any more different, with Pretty in Pink definitely falling into a teen drama bordering on melodrama, and Sixteen Candles so damned goofy it’s almost a cartoon. And yet, there are still a few touching moments in Sixteen Candles, like the famous final scene, and there are still plenty of crazy hijinks in Pretty in Pink, almost all courtesy of Jon Cryer’s "Duckie" character, who is sadly far too similar to several of my friends. Does this mean Hughes’ movies are so formulaic, dated, and boilerplate that you can watch several at a time and have trouble distinguishing them apart? Yes and no. One isn’t going to confuse Pretty in Pink for Sixteen Candles, and you certainly won’t confuse these two with the Breakfast Club… but they are all just similar enough and, given the aforementioned drama vs. goofy shit dichotomy of the two above, they make a perfect double feature, and probably wouldn’t quite stand up on their own.
I did notice something odd about both of these movies. Now, granted, they are basically the beginning of the "this is what high school is like, kids!" BS that my generation was brought up on (and promptly threw a generation-wide sulk when high school turned out to suck on ice), but it really just seems over the top at times. However, I grew up in the sticks, where people still listened to Styx when others were pounding in Nine Inch Nails. I kept asking the wife, who grew up in a more, um, "urban" environment (read: more than one black person in the town), if the Chicago area was really like this. It’s no small secret that John Hughes grew up in the greater Chi-town area, and his fictional burg of Shermer, Illinois, is often seen as an ersatz for the town of Naperville on Chicago’s posh north side. She responded that yes, things really were this crazy once upon a time, and that they often still are. Needless to say, I hate teenagers more than ever, including myself as one. It was just mind-boggling for myself to see these things on such a ridiculous level: crazy parties, wanton sex, offensive content, all of which I thought got to the current ridiculous level through years of parody. No such luck. If things really were like this, I’m glad I stayed home most nights. But that’s just me, and the movies are still damn entertaining.
These movies are important for what they are, and what they started. I hate to say that they are "required viewing" because they are the original teenage movies that everyone already knows via pop cultural osmosis… but give them a shot and take them for what they are. If you’ve been spared the parodies up til now, bless you, and see where it all started. If you feel like you were lied to by being promised Bayside High and Animal House in your formative years, just sit down and watch the movies and enjoy the movies, and realize that real life is not cinematic. Just enjoy the movies for what they are, entertainment, and make your own darn life: be ugly, be weird, be wrong, just stop trying to be Molly Ringwald, or Jon Cryer, or even Judd Nelson. After all, they all grew up and moved on, why can’t you?

 
Oh, okay, maybe not Judd Nelson, then.

Movie Monday! The Breakfast Club


I’d never seen this movie.

Nor had I seen any of the John Hughes "Brat Pack" films. When I mentioned that to my wife, she seemed shocked, and suggested we watch them all. When I mentioned it to the clerk at the video store, he asked what rock I’d been hiding under. I said "Minnesota," which seemed to work for him. I’m not quite sure what or exactly why the mystique is around these films but, looking at it from a historical perspective, I can see how they completely changed the game of adolescent cinema. Unlike the early game changers of the Hollywood musical, like South Pacific, movies like The Breakfast Club still retain their poignancy and importance, if only because of the numerous pastiches, parodies, homages, and half-assed cash-in attempts. In an odd case, all of those seem to make the legend stronger, the meaning more important, rather than diluting it. Still, as a person who didn’t see "Animal House" until he was already in college and just saw "The Breakfast Club" at twenty-five, I can see exactly what makes movies like this great…and what makes them not so great.

I once had a roommate who actually did the "I’m a zit" sequence from "Animal House," in a college cafeteria, with real mashed potatoes. Everyone called him an idiot for it. Yet, as far as he knew, it was something crazy awesome that a wacky college guy did in a wacky college movie, so for the requisite wacky college experience, it had to be done. No doubt a similar amount of school skipping, library pot smoking, and store closet hanky-panky was perpetrated in the name of having an experience like The Breakfast Club, because that truly must be what a memorable high school experience was. To be completely honest, I like the premise, and I love the way it’s carried out. Schools are still as fiercely divided as they were in the 1980s, so it’s still a relevant movie, if an incredibly idealistic one. You see, the main trouble with movies like The Breakfast Club or Animal House isn’t that they exist. They are fine, entertaining movies… and therein lies the problem. They are MOVIES. And yet, millions of young humans have gotten ideas into their heads that "all high school must be like The Breakfast Club!" or "College must be like Animal House!" and as such we get people attempting to live their lives by fiction, which is by its very design supposed to be an exaggeration of reality. This lapse in consciousness and misguided generational cannibalism lead to nothing but more confusion and more problems when these kids have to realize that life isn’t a movie.


NOT REAL LIFE.

Still, they are good movies. The Breakfast Club is wonderfully entertaining and a succulent high school fantasy fairy tale. Unfortunately, it will never happen. I would go so far to say that fairies, dragons, and magic have a better chance of appearing in the world we know than the events of The Breakfast Club. The biggest issue, of course, is in the catalyst of John Bender. In reality, such a character would not exist, or at the very least not be present in that library on that day. I find it hard to believe that a squid like Mr. Bender would take time to serve a detention (or eight) if he truly was as bad as the movie makes him out to be. Furthermore, it’s hard to see him realistically as the chessmaster who manages to get each of the kids to start being palsy-walsy, because most tough guys I know just don’t care. They’ve had all the care beaten out of them, and they care only for themselves. The characters are spot on, and the interactions are great, but the sad truth of the matter is that there really are no John Benders, there are no Blutos, and life is not a movie. The events of The Breakfast Club will probably never happen, and that… well, it just adds to the movie’s appeal.
I’m guessing John Hughes was a lot like yours truly in high school. He saw the cliques and the groups and the inanity of it all, but lacked the real stones to be like Bender and flay each clique raw to the bone, until they realized their similarities. Instead, he did what any good, Midwestern nerd does: he writes about it. And he wrote well. It’s obvious that Mr. Hughes knew how high school kids acted, and there’s only a few times that seem a little weird (Neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie?). The closest the film gets to a physical villain is even rather ambiguous to this former teacher, as he can remember being in a similar situation, and some of the questions asked by the even MORE ambiguous janitor to the teacher left me asking the same questions of myself, and that’s the mark of a good movie. The movie, in and of itself, is fantastic: the acting is good, the story is good, and it had aged well… dubious fashion and music aside. In fact, I think the main reason I didn’t watch this movie for 25 years is because I grew up in a stolidly anti-80s household, with two older brothers and an older sister who lived through the Hell of stirrup pants and Thompson Twins, and forbade me from observing, and certainly enjoying, anything from the decade of my own birth. So far, it’s been advice that’s served me well, but there’s always a few diamonds to dig out of the hypercolor cesspool now and again, and this is one of them. It’s just a little heartbreaking to know that a situation like this will probably never happen, and yet that is all that is missing from really making some progress in the segregated and vicious teen world of high school. I guess part of me is still that lonesome little geek, seeing the madness of the situation but still not able to bring about lasting change. There may be no John Bender, but there was a John Hughes, and for a little while on a Saturday night, I did believe it could actually happen in a high school somewhere. Well done.


I’M SO EXCITED AND I JUST CAN’T HIDE IT I’M ABOUT TO LOSE CONTROL AND I THINK I LIKE IT

Movie Monday! The Dark Knight


Because my friend asked for it.

There are three kinds of good movies. First, there’s the good movie that’s so good, you leap up out of your chair and pump your fist in the air, wishing you could do what the characters did in that fantastical celluloid world of make believe that our imaginations and video players give life to. Scott Pilgrim is one of those movies. The second kind of good movie is the one where you can lean back and smile: maybe because it was a really funny movie, or maybe because it was just so heartwarming that the entire world seems softer, happier, better. Up is one of those movies. The third kind of good movie, however, is the kind that gets into your mind, turns you in upon yourself, and leaves you holding your new wife close to you at 3:30 in the morning, crying and unable to stop thinking terrible thoughts. A movie that well written, that well performed, that well put together, is very rare indeed. I saw The Dark Knight last night, two years after its release. I had been waiting for two years for the moment to be right, for the time to be right, for the hype and the love to die down and I could truly enjoy it without a jaundiced eye and a cynical heart. It took two years and the insistence of my very good friend to finally see it and, after all of the accolades, I was uncertain as to just how this movie was going to live up to its own reputation. I thought I was ready to experience this movie, I thought I was ready to see what all the Oscar-winning buzz was about, I thought I was ready to finally watch, and REALLY see, this movie.
I was wrong.
This movie scares me. It terrifies me. It upsets me. And it is damn good. It is so good that I don’t know if I can watch it again. I’m still scared. It made me uncomfortable as only the best possible movies can do, but at a level that I had never experienced before. Yes, Scott Pilgrim affected me as it mirrored several things I had experienced and combined that with a big-screen spectacle that will probably never be duplicated. The Dark Knight, however… it showed me things I haven’t experienced… and I hope I never have to, because I don’t know how I would handle it. What’s more, I don’t want to know. God, I hope I never have to know.
The movie is sublime in its depravity. I found myself at several instances wondering aloud "how can they write this?" It was several of my darkest fears and most uncomfortable thoughts brought to life on the big screen, and it was done just perfect enough to keep me literally shaking with suspense as to how this would work out. It’s almost impossible to describe, so I suppose I could just let Mr. Freud do it for me. It’s very possible that director Christopher Nolan was purposefully using three main characters to mirror classic archetypes bordering on id, ego, and superego. From the impulsive, chaotic Joker, to the butchered morals of Harvey Dent, to the strong idea of right and wrong in Batman, I know I wasn’t the only person who saw bits of myself in all three of these characters…and managed to freak myself right out because of it. In my younger, more foolish days, when I thought mental illness was something that would make me seem "deep," I created different personas for myself: There was Eric, the ego, middle of the road, still impulsive but with the capability for decisions to be made. Second was Willy Hairtrigger, my id, the person who I turned to who would say all the things I couldn’t say, do the things I couldn’t do, all without any fear of repercussion. Lastly, there was The Professor, who is a firm believer in the letter of the law, black and white, no exceptions, the superego. Even the title of this very journal is testament to that joke I played on myself, the punchline I am still feeling as I try, now twenty-five, to make sense of my adult life.
I have a Dent, a Batman, and a Joker.
My Joker teases me with visions of revenge exacted against old bullies, revelling in the warmth that seems to emanate from my heart at such visions, or horrific images of dead loved ones that I sometimes cannot seem to stop. My Dent manifests itself as the frustration I feel as a supposedly "exceptional" person working at a simple call center, only a flip of the coin away from an outburst or an episode. Finally, my Batman is there barking out moral codes and the idea of absolute justice, and feeling a nearly palpable desire to set things right that are so very, truly wrong. This movie, this film, brought such uncomfortable things to the surface that I cried myself to sleep after watching it, terrified of what lies in me, in all of us, and how we can possibly overcome it. The mere idea of having to tell someone that everything is going to be all right when you know it isn’t is something that, more than twelve hours later, will make me want to collapse if I think about it too much.
Thankfully, the movie has its spots of hope: the ferry scene is a charity in the darkest of times, so much so that you nearly cry at its conclusion. The bits of humor sprinkled throughout the film make for a welcome reprieve as the darkest bits eat at your soul. And the ending, the admonishment and the creation of a new villain for Gotham City, is so bittersweet and so perfectly executed that you lose yourself in the movie. You cry over the deaths, and you cheer on dogged, decent men like Jim Gordon, played increasingly beautifully by Gary Oldman. You become a citizen of Gotham, holding out for that savior and yet despising him at the same time. Still, I wonder… do we despise him because he does what we cannot, or do we despise him because he shows us the blackness in our own souls?
This movie is perfect. It hurts in the best possible way. I don’t know if I ever named a "movie for 2008," but if I didn’t, this would be it. Perhaps there is a bias, almost certainly there is, but I can’t help but think that the same bias is within all of us, and more movies need to be made like The Dark Knight to get us to think about ourselves in something more than a Tweet or a Status message. We are more than 140 characters… we are three characters, every last one of us, and if we don’t confront the Jokers and the Dents present in our own souls, then… well, there will be dark times for us all. In this world, sadly, there will be no Dark Knight to rescue us. It is something we will have to do for ourselves.

Movie Whenever! Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


So… Scott Pilgrim.

Yes, I’ve been putting this review off for a while, and I think I’m better for it. I doubt you’d like to have heard me gush like an excitable 15 year old schoolgirl page after page, so I decided to give this review a little time to mellow and for all of the impurities to float to the surface, so to speak. Also, I wanted to make sure I had enough time to properly organize my thoughts and put together a review, or an article, that was truly worthy of this film. Just a few pages of spluttering in ecstasy or thinly-veiled potshots at actors I don’t like weren’t going to cut it this time, I wanted to do an actual review! And here it is.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is my favorite movie of 2010. It’s possibly my favorite movie of all time. I can’t see another film coming out in the next three months that will do what this film did… I don’t even see one coming close. The direction is perfect, the editing is gorgeous, the characters are sublime, and it’s really the best book-to-movie transition (with necessary cuts) I’ve ever seen, after I immediately went out and tore through the books like a ravenous wolverine the night/early morning after seeing a 10PM showing. The books are even better, if you can believe that, and the simple art style hides some of the best humanistic writing I’ve read in my entire life. Sure, it’s not a perfect translation, but it stands on its own as a damn fine, entertaining, and interesting movie the likes of which you don’t normally see in the American cinema. Let’s face it, we put out a lot of one trick ponies as far as movies go. Pretty much everything that was changed was changed for a good reason, and some of the changes are actually funnier than the books. If you turned it away because it was based on a comic book, shame on you. If you thought it was just another bit of hipster garbage, I can understand. If you didn’t see  the movie simply because Michael Cera was in it, that’s a terrible reason to do anything. This movie, despite what the box office would tell you, is an instant classic and a  brilliant piece of cinema, and its unremarkable monetary performance is just more proof that America is on the downward slide. The movie is fantastic, and even its flaws seem to make it better somehow because, at the heart of the matter, it’s not so much WHAT this movie is, it’s THAT this movie is.
Yes, get a comfy seat, kids, because this is going to be another long one. It’s time for another one of my "stories-that-masquerade-as-a-movie-review" segments. Just let me dust off the soapbox here…
Nah, I don’t need the soapbox QUITE yet. I’m thinking more like…


Yeah.

Now, I’d have to say it all started around 1997. A little show called "South Park" was first introduced to me by one Mitchell Johnson on the seventh-grade schoolyard. Suddenly, every last one of us had to see this show, in a move that would later be deliciously parodied in the South Park movie. The crowning achievement was when I was gifted a South Park t-shirt, featuring the now immortal line of my young generation, "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!" I was thrilled. However, as the years went on, I started seeing more and more people wearing these shirts, and other shirts, that they had never even thought of wearing before. These were popular people, and they were wearing shirts that were, dare I say… geeky? Shirts for TV shows, shirts with sassy sayings, the kinds of shirts that had been the solitary possession of friendless nerds for decades, and usually homemade. Suddenly, the "cool" kids were eschewing their former portion of sports-themed apparel and switching to the clothes that had made us outcasts for years. In fact, outside of the geek world, such themed T-shirt were the domain of, well, little kids. Suddenly, it was like our weird way of life was getting merged into the mainstream. Oh, happy day, my friends and I thought. Soon, we will be able to discuss the second quest of Zelda with our former tormentors, and we could all sing the theme song to Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers under a golden sun, turning our formerly pale skin and healthy brown as we finally were unafraid to join the rest of the world. Truly, this would be the dawn of a new, school-aged utopia!

But it was not.
Instead, we were still mocked and ostracized, even while the "cool" kids began playing more video games, wearing more sassy t shirts, and generally encroaching on cynicism and snark, which had been the nerd calling card for, oh, centuries, possibly milennia. Have you read some of the old Greek philosophers? Bunch of catty bitches, the lot of them. Anyway, we were fools to think that t shirts and cultural shifts would somehow give us the peace and acceptance we always dreamed of. There were still several other things to be picked on for, after all: physical appearance, devotion to schoolwork, unluckiness with the ladies, and our habits of spending cash on new video games instead of making our parents buy them for us, along with $120 shoes that were, as the French say, ass-ugly. And yet, as college loomed on the horizon, so did another new world that would finally accept us: YouTube burst on the scene in 2005, with Facebook shortly after, and it seemed as if all the world was about to go geek. T-shirts emblazoned with NES controllers and the phrase "know your roots," Music that was getting increasingly electronic in sound and nature, the turning of social culture to inside a computer, and the prominence of internet memes and wacky phrases in even the most stolid of jock and cheerleader types surely would lead us into this new millennium riding high on BraveStarr’s 30/30, reigning as Kings of the cultural zeitgeist, yea, King Geek! Finally, after a half-century of oppression, this would be it, this HAD to be it!
But it was not.
Instead, the geeks and nerds of the world found their love, their lives co-opted and turned into the newest hot fad. Just like the blacks, and the latinos, and the gays before them, and the south asians to follow soon after, Geeks had become the latest target for a parasitic exploitation by the twin demons of Hollywood and Trend. The cultural blight known as the "hipster" had its disease-ridden genesis at this time, seeking to glom onto everything geek and nerd while simultaneously dismissing it as lame, claiming that, in irony, they have somehow rose above the cultural miasma that they themselves have created. The social scene of the times was a muddled mess of Mario, Modest Mouse, and mugs of Mickey’s, all steeped in the putrid juices of a long stagnated and contaminated pool of irony and sarcasm. Geek culture has been invaded, pillaged, raped, and will soon be left as an empty, rotting husk for those last few true believers to inhabit and attempt to breathe life into once again. Another trend will follow, and the sheep will leave to try on denim Saris or brand name Chakra dots. The geek will not inherit the earth, as some writers who believe themselves clever would like you to believe, they will simply have to carry on in the watered-down, marginalized existence that has already crippled the cultures of countless trends that went before it. The geeksploitation will leave us, my people, our people will a lack of cultural identity, because what were were given back by trend and popular opinion will not resemble the coat of many colors were were given by the likes of Gygax, Asmiov, Hawking, and Miyamoto. The rest of the world will move on, as it often does, leaving the geeks behind to inherit a hollow life, or blindly follow along with the crowd, desperate for that brief, shining moment of cultural relevancy and foolishly holding to the belief that it will come again.
But we will not.


Let me bust this bad boy out again…

Let me tell you something about geeks. We spent the better part of the last sixty years being openly mocked and culturally tortured. We, the true geeks, will not depart our homes. We will rebuild, and we will wind up being the ones who herd the sheep. Four words: Bill, Steve, Gates, Jobs. You’re not going to kill the true geeks, just as you didn’t kill the previous cultures, or at least the small minority in those cultures that had a solid identity to begin with. Yes, we’re riding the cultural cusp now, but when it all falls apart, we’ll still be reading geek blogs, watching anime, and gasping breathlessly about our last Halo deathmatch long after they have gone out of style. We’re going to keep talking about how great Star Wars is, we’re going to love us some action figures, and we’re still going to have pride long after the hipsters learn to pull up their damn pants and go to work at some dreary office. We have pride, the true believers, we will not be put down and silenced. The boot of culture will try to crush us in their quest to tramp everything down into a uniform and "cool" social-group-of-the-moment, but we will spring right back up when that boot moves on, waving aloft our lightsabers and screaming "we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!" in the original Klingon. We’re used to be mocked and left alone, and the true geeks, the real nerds, the ultimate losers cannot WAIT until you all leave us the fuck alone. You can even start picking on us again, but get out of our house, get off our LAN, and cough up those d20s. You haven’t earned it.
I’ll admit, when I first saw the trailer for Scott Pilgrim, I groaned. "Typical hipster garbage," I thought, with the overuse of the word "epic" in the trailer, prevalence of skinny jeans, and apparently token nods to the current buzz of "vidja gaymes r kewl, brah" culture. I was fully ready to write it off with other co-opted triumphs like "the Big Bang Theory" or committee designed garbage appeals to the fake nerds like "Juno." It looked like just another cash-grab by a billion dollar studio and a trillion dollar industry to insult my people like holding a poison-laced bit of cheese in front of a lab rat. You can take your fake nerds, I’ll stick to my real nerds, the guys who bankrupt themselves to put out videos to appeal to me and my people who do agree that the original TMNT NES game was a crime against our youth, and that Seth McFarlane is the penultimate blood-traitor of all geek-kind. I’m nowhere near an Alpha Geek. Hell, I played football in high school! But I am proud of my people (and yes, if Hollywood wants to do what they’re doing, then we are a PEOPLE) and I will gladly take part in the uprising to take back what it ours. And so, when I saw one afternoon on one of my favorite geek news sites, Topless Robot, that Scott Pilgrim had "bob-ombed" at the box office, I was stunned.
How could that have happened? I thought. This movie was carefully crafted to appeal to everything those worthless little hipster fucks would want to see in a movie, right? This was just another cash grab, another Diablo Cody nonsense-fest that the swoopy-haired gobshites would pretend was deep, right? It was marketed right at fake nerds, who outnumber real nerds almost 3 to 1…so how did it fail? Then, one by one, I started watching reviews from my respected geek correspondents: Spoony, Angry Joe, even the Distressed Watcher, whom I often find very annoying, put out a very interesting video, all of them urging a mustering of the real nerds, the true geeks, to see this movie. I’d never seen such a grass roots appeal for a Hollywood movie from the geek culture, so I started doing a little research. I read up on the books, and I started watching all the trailers, which is where I saw all the proof I needed to give my money to this movie: Edgar Wright. Mr. Hot Fuzz, which was, by and large, my movie of 2007 and another one of my favorite movies of all time. In fact, the Nostalgia Critic even picked it as his favorite comedy. Mr. Wright has a golden touch when it comes to making movies I will LOVE, and I had enough faith in him after Hot Fuzz that I managed to goad three friends into seeing a late Sunday night showing of Scott Pilgrim, even going so far as to take Luv directly from work to the theater down the road. I felt it was my duty to spread the gospel that had been spread to me, and my friends, true nerds all, including my lovely wife-to-be, were not disappointed.
The line has been drawn in the sand with Scott Pilgrim: it typifies everything a geek would love and a nerd would understand, and everything the fakers would know nothing about. So they find some way to say it’s bad: Michael Cera, bland protagonists, confusing story, rushed plot, anything to assure themselves that they didn’t miss the point entirely… but they did. The simple truth of the matter is that Edgar Wright made this movie for us, the true nerds, who have had to deal with almost everything that this movie has to offer. The woman I’m marrying in three weeks had a cadre of men around her who adored her, and I did have to cut through them like Mr. Pilgrim cut through Ramona’s "evil exes." I have had a Knives Chau, a young-looking little thing who thought we were "an item" after one date and was harder to shake than a limpet. I have had, and have been, the sagacious friend who is just as likely to offer the right advice as he is to refuse wearing pants in the apartment. I will not get into spoiler territory here, but the ending of the film (which differs from the ending of the book much like 2001: A Space Odyssey did as it, too, was still being written at filming) comes across with so much reality to me that it brought tears to my eyes, even though there was absolutely nothing on the screen that would have, should have done so. Edgar Wright made a movie for me, for us, for the real geeks of the world, and the fact that it bombed at the box office is only proof positive that we are still a minority, we are still the true inheritors of the geek realm. This is not geeksploitation, this is a rare ascendance of one of our own to buck the system and make a true geek tribute that, in a completely un-pretentious way, the rest of you simply will not get it. How can I say that unpretentiously? Simple, by saying it while my Haruhi Suzumiya standee looks on, wagging a finger reproachfully. We are geeks, we are lame, and by design we are unpretentious… but we are also still proud.
Thank you, Mr. Wright. More than anything else, your movie (and the sad/happy performance it had at the box office) has shown me that I don’t have to be ashamed anymore. I was allowing myself to be put neath the boot, I was making excuses for my love of anime or cartoons or video games. I was even ashamed to talk about them in public. I was ashamed of who I was. I thought geek was dead, truly. I thought the hipsters and Hollywood had gutted it beyond repair. I thought that, by saying I beat Zelda on my first go in 1992, I was somehow going to be lumped in with an entire generation of useless stains on the fabric of our cultural bedspread. Yet, because this movie failed, it shows me that the geek is still alive, and still vocal in the vision of men like Edgar Wright and the words of Bryan Lee O’Malley. No, you won’t get it, you won’t spend money to see it, but we will, and we will be proud of it. We won’t shut up about it, because after years of being mired in a quicksand of trucker hats and pre-stressed clothing, a shining, alabaster tower has risen above for us to climb and claim as our own, sticking at its summit the flag of the true geek. Rejoice, my brethren, for we are still young, we are still strong. We don’t care if we belong or not, and we revel in the fact that we are not cool. We are still free, never shackled by society or the rule of cool, and we will continue to be bloodied and beaten for who we are, because we are proud to be who we were. We are the ones who will change the world, we are the ones who will make this next generation better, and you will never understand us, so you will fear us and try to drive us down. But the one thing you should realize, you fools and charlatans, is that you can’t ever drive a nerd or a geek too far down. When you throw us into the basement, we’re right at home.
Until we meet again, I tenderly remain,
Eric.

Play me off, Mika!

Music Monday! Great Big Sea


Regrettably, it’s hard to find a non-pretentious-looking picture of them.
Oh well…woo hoo, Hockey!

So yeah, I just saw Scott Pilgrim vs. the World last night… but I’m not quite ready to review that one yet. I need to let a few things… sink in. For now, enjoy a little story.
If any of you have been reading this… thing (not a blog) for a while, you’ve probably seen me at my most psychotic, demagogic, and neurotic. Let’s face it, since I’ve started this thing (freshman year of college) I’ve been up and down and in and out of depressions, suicidal tendencies, and general grumpiness more times than I’d like to count. I figure I’m man enough to admit it, and certainly man enough to keep it all up here and published to read, so if you’d ever like to see a written account of someone losing it, just click on the "madman" tab. It ain’t pretty. Still, there have been things to keep me on the straight and narrow…or at least the straight and not-dead-right-now. First and foremost would be my family, who have always been there for me. Without them, I’d be dead. Second, there’s my wonderful wife-to-be, who is basically picking up where my family leaves off in terms of providing the love and affection that becomes creepy from one’s Mum n Dad once you pass, um, eight. Without her, I’d still be a madman. Coming in at a very distant third (or more like second, because the first two are kinda tied) is Haruhi Suzumiya, and yes, before you ask, I do credit that show with helping to shift my bitter disposition toward the world. Deal with it. After all that, I’d say something that has really been my rod and staff, something that has always been there when I needed it and fit my mood whatever it may be… would have to be music.
There was the Nirvana thing when I was about ten, easily the music of choice for the overly-cynical, old-before-his-time elementary student, and plus almost everyone else in my family dug it in the mid-90s. I had to steal a copy of Nirvana Unplugged away from my mother. After that, it was the punk scene at large, and I spent most of high school singing NOFX’s "Franco-UnAmerican" with the optional lyrics and continuing to rail against the system. Why yes, there is more name-dropping to come. In college, I bought a copy of "American Idiot" and rallied behind it, falling asleep to it every night in my earphones as it fueled my further descent into angry at the world muddy-stickness therein. Now, I’m not saying that all this angry music didn’t have its place, or that it somehow doomed me. It’s good music, and I still listen to it quite a bit (even thought American Idiot has been torn apart and also turned into cringe-inducing Broadway upchuck), but it was more the situation I was in that created the bad feelings, and the music was actually what made me feel better. It was just nice to have someone else saying "hey, it’s okay, the world DOES suck, you’re not crazy for noticing or wanting to do something about it" all while backed up by electric guitars.
Still, for those of you familiar with my madman days, you know how things went. I wound up back in the middle of nowhere, even for Minnesota, in some kind of self-imposed exile to rant and rave like a new millenium wise man cave hermit. And yet, it was about that time I really started digging anime, and I stumbled across something called "AMV Hell." It was a collection of short anime clips set humorously to either fitting or horribly unfitting music. In one of the AMV Hell videos there were some scenes from various shows set to a song that kept repeating one simple phrase.

"And I say way, hey hey, it’s just an ordinary day, and it’s all your state of mind/At the end of the day, you’ve just got to say it’s all right."

This song snippet, accompanied by a vaguely folk/celtic sound, immediately interested me. In this world of enemy combatants, nuclear threats, and a news media that wants every second of your life to be filled with dread (presumably, so you watch more news), here was a band, a MODERN band, singing songs that said "hey, things ain’t so bad." What’s more important, they were WHITE, and I didn’t think it was legal for white people to sing happy songs since, I don’t know, "Good Morning Starshine."


Ah. Now it all makes sense.

Anyway, I tracked down the song and found it to be called, simply enough, "Ordinary Day" by a group calling themselves "Great Big Sea." Oh boy, I thought as I researched, this could really end badly: pretentious pictures, lead singer with long hair, folksy background… maybe that one song was just a fluke. Maybe "Ordinary Day" would be the "Bad Romance" of Newfie Rock. So, thanks to the Internet (God Bless You, Internet!) I was able to track down a few of their other songs via YouTube (God Bless You…Tube!) and found that, hey, I really liked almost all of them I found. Let this be a lesson, kids: don’t judge a book by its album cover… or something. I started scarfing up all the GBS I could find on the Internet and, as a truly crowning achievement, my lovely bride-to-be actually tracked down one of their CDs from Canada for my last birthday. Have I mentioned how much I love her lately? Anyway, the CD had a few songs I knew, and a lot I didn’t, so once again I was skeptical. I should have learned that, when it comes to GBS, to never be skeptical.
I just don’t know what it is about these guys. By my own admission, I should probably hate them. I mean, I didn’t let Mika off the hook this easy, and then I went and wrote him a damn musical. I still think some of his stuff is crap. When it comes to this genre of music, I usually have nothing but hate-filled barbs in my holster, ready to fling with reckless abandon while screaming the lyrics to "Puff the Magic Dragon" and weeping openly. But… there’s such a genuineness to these guys, I really believe that they believe, and FEEL, what they’re singing. See, American music industry? Try putting out music where it seems like your singers CARE, and I might give a damn. Oh, what do you care, you’re too busy autotuning your brains inside out. And while I’m at it (there’s still grumpy in these hear bones!) American music industry… yeah, YOU, in the corner… I found these guys online. I listened to them on YouTube. I now love the band so much that I’m willing to fork over the import costs to buy their CDs. THAT IS HOW THE MARKET WORKS. Don’t complain if people don’t care enough about your mass-produced, autotuned swill to pay for it legally. And yes, I think autotuning is worse than Hitler.
Luv got me the album "Something Beautiful," and the songs are as follows:

1. Shines Right Through Me – A good, safe track to start off the album. Good bridge, good song to get people into it. Unfortunately, I usually end up skipping it because the next song is GOODNESS INCARNATE.

2. When I Am King – Simply the best song I think I’ve ever heard. It gets me every time, and it makes me want to sit down and write something that will change the world… but then I usually have to go to work, and that puts a damper on things. Still, it makes me FEEL like a GOD.

3. Beat the Drum – A perfect follow up to the last song, this one has an amazing driving beat that keeps you inspired after the last song wakes up your very soul.

4. Something Beautiful – Kind of weak for a title track, but wonderfully calming, very sweet and, as always with GBS, a wonderful message: move along, I believe there’s something beautiful just waiting for you and me. Words to live by.

5. Helmethead – SURPRISE COMEDY SONG! Hilarious and rocking pub song, with plenty of hockey references for fun. Makes you want to dance, unless you have no soul. I’m looking at you, gingers.

6. Summer – The mood kinda whiplashes here between tracks 4, 5, & 6 as this one’s another soft, lovely song. But then again, I think if you put 4 & 6 together it would officially qualify as "Sad Bastard Music" so Track 5 is a welcome reprieve.

7. Sally Ann – The kind of song you can’t sell in America anymore. Imagine Tommy Roe’s "Sweet Pea" mixed with Social Distortion’s "She’s a Knockout" Yeah.

8. Somedays – Neck and neck with Track 12 for worst song on the CD, but it is by no means unbearable. Just a simple song that, when you’re smitten like this dork (points to self), sounds pretty. If you’re single, it’s probably dreck.

9. Let It Go – "Let it go, let it go/this is smaller than you know/It’s no bigger than a pebble lying on a gravel road." THIS BAND SHOULD JUST BE CALLED "WORDS TO LIVE BY." I’m a neurotic wolf-biter, so maybe your mileage may vary on that.

10. John Barbour – A Newfoundland take on the old "Gypsy Rover" song, which means it will be made of BEST. One day I will do this to my father-in-law, just wait. Perfect wakeup song.

11. Lucky Me – More words to live by, more smiling in the face of adversity, more of what America could really use but is far too far up its own ass to notice. I hear Calgary is nice this time of year…

12. Love – Not the best written, and pretty confusing at times. The first verse talks about a struggling couple, and then the second plunks you down in the middle of war-torn Gaza. It’s weird, but you can’t fault the message. Makes for the warm fuzzies, but as this point what did you expect?!

13. Chafe’s Ceilidh – Because this album needed MOAR CONCERTINA. Two old folk songs that are played with a modern twist and kick so much ass you’ll be bowing down to the Maple Leaf in no time.

Now, just as a disclaimer, I don’t hate America. I think it’s still one of the best places in the world to live, but I also see that it’s going through what every major empire has gone through in History, and it’s too proud to stop its inexorable decline. As a History major, it pisses me off, and as a thinking human being, it has me looking north. I’d freely go back to saying America was Numbah Waan if it’d just get a fucking grip. But enough of that, let’s hear some MUSIC! WOOOOOOOOOO!!!

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