Friday, November 5, 2010

The Circus is Coming, the Circus is - OH MY GOD

I just lost all respect for Cirque du Soleil. I've been a fan for a while, and actually went to one of their big-top shows live, and it was extraordinary. But now there's this:

Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour

I mean. What the F**K?!? He's dead. He's been dead for a good long while. While I assume they're going to do some sort of tribute to his talent and so on (he was a fine dancer and had a pretty phenomenal voice), he was a bit of a freakshow in life and, frankly, kind of icky as a human being.

Now, if they're planning on attaching strings to his wrists and ankles and head and doing some sort of marionette thing with his corpse, THAT I might go to.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Movie Time!!!

So, with me still recovering from a bad bout of bronchitis, the little woman and I decided to spend the weekend trying to do as little as possible. Thus, we rented flicks that we had been wanting to see. As follows:

"It's Complicated"
"Mary and Max"
"The Men Who Stare At Goats"

Interesting premise: a comic-book geek decides that there's no reason why someone shouldn't, you know, dress up in a concealing costume and fight crime, like a superhero. His friends put it succinctly: "No one has superpowers, so no one can actually be a superhero." He argues back with Batman, they argue back with billionaire, and it's pretty funny. So he goes and orders a green wetsuit, buys a couple of sticks - and promptly goes out and gets beat up to the point of hospitalization. In the meantime, video of his exploits ends up on YouTube, especially the part where refers to himself as Kick-Ass, and other "superheroes" pop up out of the woodwork. Big Daddy and Hit Girl, specifically. Big Daddy is Nicholas Cage doing a bang-up Adam West impersonation, and Hit Girl is a little eleven-year-old girl with a mouth like a sailor and a knack for butchering people or blowing their brains out that has you sitting there going oh my God, oh my God. She's f**king ELEVEN.

Directed by Matthew Vaughan (of Layer Cake fame), and based on comic books that are apparently way worse than the film.

It's Complicated
No it isn't. Rich people have difficulties we can only dream of, and to watch all these twits with their problems is to make me think more and more that it's time to line 'em all up and use them for soup. Meryl Streep gets talked into having an affair with her ex-husband, played by Alec Baldwin, and as soon as she says the line "I'd forgotten why you're such a good lawyer" I stopped believing anything he said. She's getting an addition onto her house that would probably cost as much as any of us little folks pay for our current houses, he drives a new Porsche and a used supermodel, Steve Martin (as the bland architect who's designing her addition) is the third wheel in all of this and looks uncomfortable the entire time. All of their children are doing just great, don't need any help from Mom & Dad.

Just like everyone you know, right?

Anyway, not an entirely fair review, as we stopped watching it about a third of the way in. I started it up again, and became even more annoyed when Baldwin starts doing the whole peeping through the window, doing pratfalls off of poorly-mortared bricks thing, while Martin is having appetizers and drinks with Streep in her "too small" kitchen (which is bigger than my living room). Urgh. Scroom.

Mary & Max
A funny, sad, very very odd claymation movie from Australia, purportedly based on a true story about an eight-year-old girl leading a pretty solitary and unhappy life in Australia, who takes it into her head to begin writing to a middle-aged, anxiety-ridden Jewish man in New York City, beginning in the late seventies. I won't go into details, as they are what make the film such a wonderful experience, but suffice to say that the voice performances are top-notch (and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is completely unrecognizable - how does he make his voice do that?), and the animation is as funny and inventive as anything done by Aardman.

I leave you with a quote from Max Jerry Horovitz: "Do you have a favourite-sounding word? My top-five are 'ointment,' 'bumblebee,' 'Vladivostok,' 'banana,' and 'testicle.'"

The Men Who Stare At Goats
Not sure how I feel about this one. The premise is really great, as it's based on actual people and actual behavior. The cast is fantastic (though I have to feel a little sorry for Jeff Bridges - is he to be typecast as The Dude forever?). Kevin Spacey is wonderfully oily as a psychic spy on the make. George Clooney comes off as a man who is sincerely believing all of his hippy-dippy training while at the same time something of a sadistic idiot, and possibly insane. With all the references to "Jedi warriors", the casting folks must have had Ewan McGregor in mind from the beginning for the part of the journalist in need of a good story to win his wife back.

The psychic spy thing is, of course, true. The Russians began their psychic spy training when they thought we were doing it (we weren't). So, in order to not be behind the Russians, we began a psychic spy training program. "Remote viewing" (essentially being able to "see" a place or situation from a great distance using the power of the mind only) is a technique that I've been hearing about for a very long time, most notably in the compellingly bad film, Suspect Zero.

Funny, but a little too detached. McGregor is likeable, but swings between completely convinced that Clooney's nuts, to totally convinced he's onto something, and back again. It's not the film I expected, and could have used a better director than Grant Heslov. As a first feature, it's not terrible, but I had high hopes for this.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

10 of the Best Herd Mentality Movies of all Time

I got the idea for this post from the unfortunately titled Linkbait Generator. Though I typed in the words "herd mentality", I would never have thought of this idea on my own.

Which tells you something about why I'm not a successful (i.e., paid) writer - yet.

However, here goes with the content side of it, in no particular order (who am I to judge how people are most herd-y?):

10. Starship Troopers
In some ways, the herd I'm thinking of is the audience, not the characters in the film (though they're a herd, too). I went to see this wonderfully subversive movie, and, while getting caught up in the dumb soap opera that is the human characters' lives, what I didn't do is fall for the militaristic machismo of all the warfighting. On the other hand, the audience was cheering and applauding the whole facist enterprise, apparently forgetting for a moment that the whole thing resembled the Nazi propaganda movie that Tarantino made for Inglourious Basterds.

9. Night of the Living Dead
I'm not talking about the zombies, here. Good ole boys wandering around shooting anything that moves ("in the heead") and then worrying about whether they were alive or dead , maybe, later.

8. 1984
NewSpeak and doubleplusungood thoughts that get you nowhere, and then everyone starts wondering how long we've been at war with EastAsia...

7. Metropolis
Do I have to explain this one? Fritz Lang's ability to make people look like the machines they maintain (operate? feed? have sex with?) is terrifying.

6. Animal House
While widely seen as the ultimate (well, ultimate for the time) kick in the nuts of the Establishment, when one character starts saying "toga - toga - toga - toga" and everyone else joins in - even knowing it will likely get them all booted out of college - it's not the lunatics running the asylum, it's the sheep. And of course, the famous "band unable to turn around" scene because they've been led down a blind alley by someone not their drum-major indicts the other 95% of the crowd. Still one of the funniest films of all of their careers. The fact that Tim Matheson now plays a psychopathic ex-spy on Burn Notice just seems like the natural extension of that character (had he been inducted into the military right out of college, that is).

5. Black Hawk Down
This movie took a lot of critical hits for portraying the Somali fighters as bug-eyed crazies who fought in endless suicide waves to kill the hundred or so American Rangers and Deltas who were simply trying to get the hell out of the middle of Mogadishu with their captives (high-up lieutenants in Mohammed Farah Aidid's militia). If you read Mark Bowden's excellent book of the same name, you realize that perhaps the filmmakers weren't too far off. Doped up on Khat (a local stimulant), these folks believed themselves invincible, and also became erratically energetic, even in the face of large-caliber machine gun fire. After all, we lost 19 guys - they lost over 4,000.

4. The Wizard of Oz
Everyone in this movie is desperately looking for answers (to quote Ulysses Everett McGill). And they will turn to damn near anyone to get them. I know - it's a musical, everyone's supposed to sing together and at the same time. But they let this one doofus take over the whole Emerald City, based upon his ability to project a weird face and use a microphone, and frankly, some of the cheapest smoke effects ever seen outside of a Whitesnake concert. And the moment Dorothy does in the Wicked Witch, all of the Witch's minions turn to Dorothy as their savior. Had no one told them about the "bucket of water" trick?

3. Endangered Species
A little-seen conspiracy theory movie about the infamous cattle mutilations of the 70s and 80s (once the X-files started, no one thought about cattle mutilations anymore). Robert Urich plays a New York cop with a bad temper and a drinking problem, who's dragged his thirteen-year-old daughter on a very long road trip in the family camper to a small town in cattle country. He's paying a visit to an old friend (who also left the mean old "big city") who runs the local paper and has lots of pithy things to say about cows and cattle mutilations. There's lots of neat not-really-sci-fi stuff about testing bio-weapons on cows, and the "black helicopter that makes no noise" thing is done really, really well. All in all, poor cows, and poor people. Oh, and one person spontaneously turns into meat pudding on the side of the road.

2. Triumph of the Will
Ostensibly a documentary about the wonderfulness that was Nazi Germany, Leni Riefenstahl's documentary of the German Heimat prior to the beginning of WWII still resonates for pure imagery, which manages to not devolve into the awful cheesiness the way that so many pro-America movies suffer from, even now. It works, and it shouldn't work. Only thing wrong is still that damned moustache.

1. Life of Brian
This can be summed up by John Cleese's favorite lines: "You must all figure it out for yourselves." "WE MUST ALL FIGURE IT OUT FOR OURSELVES."


Another Sign of the Coming Apocalypso Festival

For those of you who haven't had enough fish in your vodka lately, your prayers have been answered:

Smoked-Salmon Flavored Vodka

Traditional Russian drinking habits (as opposed to the modern form, which is simple alcoholism in the face of a completely dreary existence - would you look into Putin's eyes and get all warm and fuzzy like the Shrub did?) involve at least as much eating as drinking. Have a bite of something tasty, drink a shot with a friend. Have a bite of something else tasty, have a shot with a stranger. It's all good, you're putting away a lot of protein and carbs to absorb the booze.

(I've heard that Georgians - ex-Soviet Georgians that is, not the US version - can drink like big fishes; is that true?)

So now we have the flavor of the appetizers in the booze. Who needs smoked salmon with sweet butter on black bread when you can have smoked-salmon-flavored vodka? Tastes great, less filling, more drunky more quicky.

This took a long time, and lots of work. So now we have smoked salmon vodka and bacon vodka. I have a really delicious bottle of tarragon-flavored vodka (a traditional Georgian flavoring). There are many more flavors out there, but most of them are sweet flavors such as vanilla, various berries, etc. There is also Pertsovka, the chili-pepper vodka (which is painfully, volcanically hot, by the way).

What's next: Pizza-flavored vodka? Swiss chard? Liver-and-onions?

Next up, the Kosher Pastrami on Rye vodka, just in time for Passover. Gotta work up a label for that one. I wonder what you'd call it?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sans Vie Is Playing STIFF!!!

Tickets for Sans Vie for those that can attend. They'll be going fast, and if enough people want to see this, they'll play it again. Check out the award. We got a STIFFY!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Killed Someone

I hit my neighbor's cat, driving home from work. She darted out in front of my car from behind a trash can I think, and she must have bounced off my fender, because I didn't hear a thing. I hoped I missed her. I slowed down and looked behind me, and she was trying to stand up, biting at herself. I pulled over, and ran back to pick her up. She was growling and hissing, and breathing raggedly. Blood coming out of her mouth, blood on one of her paws, just a little.

A woman, another neighbor, was right behind me on the road. She told me, "It happened so fast, there was nothing you could have done." And, "can I give you a lift to the vet's down the street?" I was a wreck, crying in front of total strangers, this cat screaming in my arms, trying to get away, probably making her own internal injuries worse. Another neighbor says she thinks she knows who the cat belongs to. She'll tell them where we're going.

We go to the vet, and as I'm getting out of the car, the cat bites into my thumb, hard, down past my thumbnail, it hurts like hell, and I'm not letting go. This last act of rebellion against death takes it out of her. The cat has calmed down a little, but still struggling to get away from me, from the pain. The neighbor helps me get the cat into the office, opening doors, asking if she needs to stay with me. I tell her no, I'll call my wife, she'll come pick me up. The vet's assistant takes me into a room right off the lobby. I lay the cat down on the table, and her breathing slows way down, almost stops. The vet comes in and takes her away. I can't stop crying. I've killed someone's friend. I call my wife to ask her to come get me.

Someone knocks, and it's the owner. He's a nice man, fiftyish, with a sad expression already formed. I tell him what happened. He's in shock. I don't know how long they've had this cat, but there's definitely a history. I lie to him about whether the cat suffered, because I think she did, quite a lot. I mention that he seems to be taking it better than I am, but he says, "I'm still in shock." The vet comes back in and tells us she's gone. The owner asks to take her home, so they can bury her in the back yard. At this point my wife comes in, and she starts crying, too. The vet brings the cat in, wrapped in a towel. My wife asks to see her. The owner starts to break down a little. He leaves with the little bundle.

I've killed someone's friend, and I don't know how to come back.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Now It's Personal

They used to be called "icebox melons" or "red jewel" watermelons. You know the kind - they're very small, seedless (or at least the seeds are edible and less offensive than the usual hard black variety you see scattered all over parks during picnic season).

They've recently changed the marketing on these little globes of sugary goodness, and are now known as "personal watermelons."


I'd like my personal whale, please.

"Personal" usually means for an individual. Or perhaps something one does in private, like a "personal massager." So I don't get this. Am I getting hypersensitive to language? Am I, perhaps, becoming curmudgeonly, and easily irritated by mild alterations to my mother tongue.

I almost used the word srsly the other day, and had to stop myself. Because how do you take anyone serious who uses a word like "srsly"?

Another important question to be asked about a personal watermelon - how much vodka can the little devil absorb? Because I'd like to get my personal drunk on, and I could bring one of these green spheres to work, loaded to the gills with Grey Goose, and no one would be able to tell without a watermelon breathalyzer. I might even be complimented on my improved diet.

I might go for "purse" melon, or something like that, implying a very small size, but personal implies that this one is just for me.

Oh, and our cat, the Muzzle, likes watermelon. Leading me to quote one of the great movies of all time, Reuben and Ed: "My cat can eat a whole watermelon!" I think Muzzle could.