Don’t Like: Asking this question: How many of people out there have been having “Fallout 3” Dreams?

December 29, 2008

Yeah…

Needless to say this has been disturbing.

I normally don’t dream this stuff, but fallout 3 is so visceral and encapsulating I find myself dreaming of the world 2 nights in a row. It’s not that much fun.

What’s even weirder is that I woke up from the fallout 3 dream and got up, took a shower, and went to school.

Only I got to school and had no idea what my first period was… I started asking other people but they had no idea whose class I was in. I was frantic. Then I look down at my watch at 6 hours had passed and it was 1 pm. Not only that, I had no idea what any of my classes were and basically started having a nervous breakdown. I have no idea why I was forgetting everything. It was scary. It was like amnesia. I went to student services to try and explain to them that I thought I was losing my mind and had absolutely no memory of all thses school-related things. As I waited my turn I began trying to help someone else who was there and it started a discussion among the admin  and afflicted students (the whole time I’m freaking out because of my lost memory). Then I say something (I can’t remember what) and this Asian woman starts yelling at me profusely because I apparently misheard her. Then I realized the woman was  Michelle Malkin, the evil one.

Then my alarm goes off.

I realize: I’m not in high school anymore. I’m not even in college… And I have to go to work. I had no idea I was dreaming and totally fell victim to the “dream within a dream” thing. It was freaky as fuck. And were it not for the horror of my fallout 3 dream I probably never would have woken up to the “reality” of my second dream.

… Man, I can’t wait to play more Fallout 3 tonight.


Like: That I had no idea Bernie Williams was Puerto Rican until about 5 minutes ago

December 23, 2008

Bernie Williams was a fixture of my youth.

Not in a good way. I was a Red  Sox fan and he and Paul O’Niell were complete symbolic figures of how those guys in pinstripes would destroy all my hopes for future happiness.

There was another way I always looked at him. He was the black guy.

Now. Obviously. There’s a lot of problems with that statement (either racially, in terms of accuracy, or otherwise), but we’re talking about a young man’s innocent characterization of his rival baseball team. Those 1996-2000 Yankees rosters were filled with white guys and hispanic players… and Bernie Williams was the African American player. He had a distinctly African-American name: Bernie Williams. He had a perfect American accent. He really was a great player and as much as I hated his success, he was great.

BUT the point is there was nothing about him that ever, ever made you think he was anything but African-American.

Nope, dude is TOTALLY Puerto-Rican. I haven’t done any in depth research or anything, but one can assume there’s some African ancestry in his lineage (and one can then question, that since Puerto Rico is part of the US, is he still African-American, but that’s another can of worms). Still, it was just a really weird thing realizing that he was Puerto-Rican. I mean his middle name is Figueroa! I had no idea.

I’m not alone in this either. I mentioned this to my friends and they were equally shocked.


Don’t Like: That Amazon.com had the GALL to recommend a Full-Screen version of a movie to me

December 22, 2008

Do you even know me Amazon.com?

You’re usually so good, if not prolific and accurate, with your emails. You reminded me when the new season of How I Met Your Mother went on sale. You offer me 50 percent off my favorite awful movies that I have no business buying and usually do. I got my mom that scarf that one time.

But then you ONLY recommend a full-screen edition of movie? I always filter our full-screen editions. I have no time for the stupid BS of Full-screen editions. “Know what would be great? If we took this beautiful movie and cut out half the shit on screen. That’ll be awesome and I’m sure it won’t effect the integrity of what’s on screen, nor the work of hundreds of people that went into the parts that are missing[watches]. Why are two people talking but I only see their hands and a big space between them?”

God.

It’s like they never read this: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/30231

So just forget it amazon.com… we had something special. And you ruined it.

And for your information, I HATED the Sex and the City movie.

Endnotes:

1.The TV show was really good though

2. “Gall” has the best webster’s definition ever: “brazen boldness coupled with impudent assurance and insolence”


Like: The Wrestler

December 19, 2008

If anything could be further from my experience watching Revolutionary Road, it would be my experience watching Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.

On all accounts, it was simply a stunning film.

Authentic. Gritty. Realistic. Subtle. Poignant.

Authenicity. This is true on two counts. First, they get absolutely every single detail about the world completely right. More than that, they seem to tell and evolve the story THROUGH those details. It’s filmmaking at its finest. As for Mickey Rourke, it would seem cheesy to say a cliche like he IS Randy “The Ram”, but never is it more applicable. Rourke simply exists as Randy. It’s a perfect combination of his acting abilities, look, well-written character, and the reality of off-screen persona. What’s most telling is I never had to even think about it. It wasn’t a showy performance. I never had to stop and think “oooh, he’s good!”. I could simply watch this character go about his life.  Just Brilliant.

Gritty. Going docu-style can backfire on you real quick. It’s easy for a scene to becomes sloppy. Tension can slip. The pace suffers. You can lose focus. But NOT for Aronofsky. You’d have to describe his previous films’ style as extremely focused and artistic. His foray into “realistic” style filmmaking is so packed with content and commentary that it succeeds across the board. And the film’s infamous violent match is so visceral. It edges on overkill, but the gritty docu-style grounds it in reality (not to mention that this stuff actually happens like this).

Subtle. The film is remarkably clear, but it does so much of its communication non-verbally that’s it’s just so damn refreshing (especially after seeing the THIS IS WHAT I THINK AND I’M TELLING YOU Revolutionary Road).

Poignant. The Wrestler manages do something I find to be the most remarkable feat in filmmaking. It manages to be at once both an intense, honest criticism of the sport and yet a total love letter to it at the same time. There’s a passion for the wonderful pageantry on display and it really respects the fans’ love of it. There’s an entire cadance to that world and in order to show the dark underbelly (the steroids, the pay, the physical punishment), they first prove that you have to love it for it all to even make sense. It’s just powerful.

All these qualities are what allows the Ram’s tale to be so heartbreaking and endearing.

And it’s the reason it’s one of my favorite films of the year.


Don’t Like: Revolutionary Road

December 18, 2008

This is one of those Oscar time movies that comes out and you’ll think about seeing because, well, you like movies and it is supposed to be good. It totally fits into all that hoopla of end-of-the-year releases and hey, more often than not, many of those films are reasonably good. They feature the most talented directors and actors. Their premises are often a bit more interesting than the rest of the year and it’s a nice change of pace. For this one specifically, chances are you came around on Leo after The Departed or The Aviator. You like Sam Mendes and know he makes beautiful movies. We can all agree Kate Winslet is awesome. So you might decide to take up REVOLUTIONARY ROAD.

Don’t.

Why? There’s a litany of reasons not to see this movie and I’m going to be a little ambitious and try to illustrate as many as I can. I feel like I have to spread the word about this, because I’m already seeing so many passive takes on the film (one early AICN review described this film as “a ride” I don’t think I could come up with a worse description). The goal is really to breakdown this movie to its essence. When there, you will hopefully see this film is nothing but an utter piece of steaming dog shit.

No, it has nothing to do with Mendes, Winslet, or Dicaprio. For all intents and purposes, they’re all fine and are certainly trying their damndest. I think all the problems with RR can be traced back to what is on the page. The script screams in pain (and by extension maybe the novel. I never read it, and every fault described could entirely be in that book, but I can only blame the screenwriter… which is what I will do).

I’ll spare you any plot synopsis. The first thing to know about REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (RR) is that it’s really just a riff on two other things. First, it’s “Madmen: the Movie!” Only everything that makes Madmen wonderful is utterly missing from this film. It’s about all the same subjects, has the same kind of characters, and is situated in the exact same location, but exhibits absolutely none of the tact, ambiguity, or subtlety of that series; Starting exactly with the issue of subtext. What supposedly makes RR so “interesting” is that it’s about the underbelly and dark secrets of suburbia and marriage (apparently the book might have created the genre), which would truly be a stark wake-up-call to the brainless, subdued nature of the 50s and early 60s conformity. How does RR establish this theme? It tells us so… Really… the characters sit there and lecture each other for the entire running time about how stupid suburban living is and just how much they hate living in the suburbs with those people. They tell us that they hate the fact that they are acting like other people too. They hate that they’re having problems in their marriage and tell each other. The characters tell you this constantly and discuss it in the same broad, generic concepts as I do here… It’s agonizing. So screenwriting rule #1 “show don’t tell” is broken so violently and garishly that it’s fucking impossible for you to absorb ANY of the possible organic acting or direction that may be on display.

Never is the “tell don’t show” dynamic more on display than with shoehorned son-of-their-landlord character. See he’s a crazy person who’s had to go to insane asylum for various social problems. He’s had electro-shock therapy and for socialization’s sake, he attends a few dinners at Kate and Leo’s house. Yet within mere moments, he’s completely perceptive to everything happening in that house and is more than willing to bring every character’s pain and neurosis right to the surface. He’s the classic Jester figure of Shakespearean literature: The fool on the hill who can get away with saying anything, especially the truth. The actor who plays him (I can’t remember from anything else) is really quite good in the role too. Mendes plays the whole ordeal for laughs and it is successful on that level, but in the larger scheme of things it is such a screeching, lobotomizing narrative device that simply hammers every big damn thematic over your head as if it hasn’t been hammered enough. In some ways it’s the deathblow of the picture. I liken it to a putting a roofie in your delicious ice cream sundae. The scene plays, it’s funny. But within the context of the entire film, the intent and lasting effect of the scene is shockingly negative. The very inclusion of which is completely false to any kind of lofty or realistic aspirations in the film. It’s almost as if at times, Mendes is trying to stretch it and harkens back to the black comedy of American Beauty. But it’s impossible. We’re in “tell don’t show” land and there’s no having it both ways. It’s a damn mess.

Like I touched on before, what makes Madmen so wonderful is that all of these very real problems are bubbling under the surface. That was what so interesting about the setting and the time, really. We weren’t that much different from now, but social etiquette, propriety, and the mere cadence of the times kept things from coming to the forefront. RR likes to point this out to us by literally saying it when characters yell at each other (and by extension, us) like they’re (we’re) idiots. Madmen, and by extension, art, doesn’t really do that. That’s what essays do. It’s all the more obvious in that unlike Madmen, RR only uses its 50s/60s setting when advantageous. You’ll see a well timed “swell” to get a laugh, and yet the whole world of the characters is a fantasy reality where people can become props for the theoretical, or utilize the 70’s “me generation” mediation with a strictly 90s outward-ness. The modernization of the film’s tone is was unquestionably jarring.

Interrupting logical sequence of criticism, I have a bit of a related tangent. In most pop-psychology terms the reason we even had the 1950s suburban mentality in the first place is that ordinary men who went off to WW2 and Korea returned home and simply wanted the basic fruits of life: a home, a family, a future. It was the thrill of a dignified, basic life as an alternative to the horrors of war. Heck, let’s just call it an inherent understanding of simple things in life. Yet to Frank Wheeler (Leo’s character, if I haven’t mentioned before, not like it matters) displays none of that. I was shocked when we learned he was a veteran. More so, being at war and rushing the front line was apparently the only exhilarating moment of his life; the one where he “really lived.” Double heck, apparently wartime Paris is the only place he wants to ever go again. That may not seem an unusual sentiment today in the age of “generation kill” and modern marine culture, but it’s pretty much a stark contrast to every single thing I’ve heard from the ordinary WW2 and Korea veterans I’ve known personally, or seen/read in other depictions. Normally, we’re subject to the notions of integrity and brotherhood among people just trying making it out alive and serve their country. For Frank… it was a different experience.

Apparently the novel’s author Robert Yates was a Veteran of WW2. Maybe in the book he had a lot more bits of insight into the war than the brief moment in the film. Maybe Yates was someone who was simply wired differently, and had a completely different reaction to both warfare and the ensuing peace in the suburban sprawl. And that would be great… if that’s the real subject of exploration. But instead of Frank being a fish out of water, he acts as if his truth is the universal truth; everyone else is damn sucker. The institutions of suburbia and marriage seem to be the blame for crushing the individual spirit. It should be said, I’ve never been to war. Who the hell am I to say what a soldier should of felt? Or what he should be writing about? It’s actually a pretty shitty thing to do… but I can only say what felt disingenuous to me… and it did.

Maybe it just gets back to my problem with Frank and April (Winslet’s character’s name, not that it matters) not being real people and just vehicles for broad sentiment; mouthpieces of author. Sure, their fights are often dead on. Then again how hard is it to have an ear for the same fights every couple has? Does that make them genuine? It feels like a trap to me. It’s the same exact thing that bothered me about Tell Me You Love Me. Is there really something poignant about the minutiae of basic relationship dynamics? To me, they’re simply a given. What’s often far more interesting are the details of the things that keep us together (in various different forms) and often that’s how we progress.

RR seems to have so many other specific writing problems too. One that sticks out is this weird as hell part where Frank seems to actually care about taking a promotion as a testament to his father, when we already to through lengths to establish that he doesn’t give a shit about his dad. It almost reeks of (gulp) plot convenience… in a personal drama. Awesome! (That’s not even mentioning the seeming absurdity of how the promotion even comes to be). Frank and April’s children aren’t even relevant for most of the film and when there, the film has much more validity and dynamic ideas. Most of the time, it feels like they’re just shuffled out of the way for convenience. Maybe the most egregious thing to my interest in the characters is how the opening of the film begins with their meeting and immediately flashes forward to their later marriage. We find ourselves witnessing a massive fight after her failed local theater performance and it’s vicious… then roll title! I fully expected us to go back in time and witness their fall from grace at this point… but nope, we continue in the present. The real problem is that the viciousness of that first fight is not too far off from the severity of the fights at the end of the film. In other words, they start and end the movie in the same goddamn place. FACEPALM. Nothing feels like more of a waste of time in a personal drama than doing that. It’s the only fucking reason we’re there. And if there’s an art aesthetic or modernist comment in doing that, I sure as hell couldn’t find it in RR.

Then there’s the matter of the other film that RR riffs on (yes we’re finally at #2): Little Children. Maybe it’s the Winslet connection, but everything that was detailed and interesting about the underbelly of suburbia in that magnificent film is broad and boring in RR. That’s mostly because it’s all about the specifics of the story in Little Children, and RR is so freakin’ eager to attach the specifics of their story to the generalness of everybody’s situation, it misses its own opportunity to be a goddamn example. The whole affair feels like the projection of a screenwriter/author who feels like they failed in life and sets fire to the institutions that trapped them in their intellectual purgatory. Sometimes it even feels like someone is trying to justify a lifestyle choice apart to their parents, or apart from the norm and they eviscerate the things they identify as obstacles. It’s almost strange really.

Maybe I’m being such a prick about this because the matter of happiness in suburbia is never really something I found all that troubling. More often then not, it’s basic displacement for whatever is bothering them, and overt intellectuals often have trouble walking out of their own mind. RR walks this fine little line by almost keying into that and establishing that Frank and April are actually idiots for not realizing it has nothing to do with where they live and how they work, but it never quite gets there. It’s just too happy digging into suburban dynamics. It’s insanely frustrating to me (especially because that was American Beauty’s biggest success). When it finally gets to the end [spoiler] and we get a little line about Frank in the wake of tragedy spending every moment with his kids, our final revelation is nothing more than a mere aside; fuck, the entire point of two hour wank-a-thon is muddled when we’re treated to a nice little misogynistic final note.

After I saw RR and wrote most of this I simply had to read up a bit on Richard Yates. I mentioned he was a veteran. He also basically worked in the exact same job as Frank did before he wrote the novel and went onto better things. His quotes about his creative work often exhibit the same pontificating persona of Frank and April. He says he sees them as “revolutionary” figures for wanting out of the suburban trap. His words are a scathing indictment of a culture. A culture in which, he sometimes feels like the victim, rather than the perpetrator (a key difference from Weiner’s Madmen). He was twice divorced and seems to be blaming the institutions (suburbia, marriage) instead of his own personal failures (such an unfair statement of me to make). His free thinking attitude and ability seem to show nothing of overcoming/transcending it, but only raging against it. But once again, I have not read the book so I speak a dreadful combination of passion and being out of turn. I can’t help it, I’m fascinated by all these complexes.

Yates wrote the book in 1962 apparently, and this would mean his thoughtful world of Frank and April was well ahead of its time. That is worth noting and explains his influence on future authors (A admirable journalist is quick to point this out, and alludes to a lot more Madmen-esque qualities in Yates writing, which would be a contrast from what I saw in the film). And yes, maybe I’m totally wrong in my statements of the film’s sincerity, but if Yates is merely a progenitor of Updike, consider me pissed. I can’t stand Updike. I find him misogynistic and invariably lame (but most of that can be covered in David Foster Wallace’s fantastic essay of destruction on Updike. Try and find it! I can’t online). Updike, like RR, so often fails to see the fact that the solutions to these “problems” in life are often right there in front of you if you could get over yourself and your penis (specific to Updike. That dude likes writing about his dick). But they can’t get over it. This also might help explain my love of Madmen. The aforementioned journalist mentions Wiener’s lack of appropriation to Yates and Updike for their influence, but that’s because I think Madmen works as a giant “fuck you,” or at very least a revision, to the mentalities of Updike and Yates.

Okay. I’m done now. A lot of this feels like nitpicking over semantics. I know and I apologize. I’m not normally like this. I think I like 95% of the movies I see I’m excited about and tend to like in some way. Face it, there’s usually nothing good that can come from not liking a movie because what it has to say. Double face it, certainly nothing can be gained from taking a shot at REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and the varying intellects and talents of the people involved. They’re very smart and very good at what they do. They have big aspirations. It’s not like I’m eviscerating Bratz or Little Man and there’s an entertaining reason for all this. I just felt like this script was a special kind of awful that doesn’t get much attention.

Who knows? The script might even get an academy award nomination.

Worse for me to admit, in the end it is an okay film to like. There are scenes of funniness. There’s some neat little things at play in the acting. I can’t imagine anyone could have done better with this awful script. And this is all just some guy’s opinion.

But I really don’t think there has ever been a film that has driven me as nuts as this one.


Like: Rajon Rondo

December 16, 2008

This is my 100th “like” post. Meaning I’m now on my 200th post. For such a prolific moment, I was going to do a post about something life-changing, but that was pretty hard so  instead I’m going to talk about basketball.

I don’t know if you noticed, but Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is playing out of his fucking mind lately.

He had his first triple double last week and last night he put up a line of 25, 9, 8, and 3. Hells yeah! He’s got great speed and tenacity. His head is on straight. He’s learning how to penetrate. His jump shot is inconsistent but improving. And sure he’s still showing some mistakes of youth, but the moments of brilliance are coming fast and furious. My favorite thing to watch are his full-scale fake-outs. The fake behind the back passes, where he’s palming it like a baseball and throwing off every defender in a five foot radius. He has such great control of the backboard and can put in anything from any contorted position. It’s so much fun to watch a player develop. And Rondo is coming out of his proverbial training bra.

The central question for any guard is easy: is he in Chris Paul’s league? Well, if you mean the NBA then yes. But is he anywhere near Chris Paul in terms of awesomeness? Well, no. But that’s cause CP3 is in the running to be considered one of the greatest point guards ever (somewhere in top 5). Rondo however could eventually work his way into being a top 3 point guard in the league. He certainly went toe to toe with Deron Williams last night. He’s already a better defender than Williams too. And that ain’t not that bad!

So let’s hope the Big Three can become the Fab Four. And if Perk becomes even more of a beast then the High 5!

… wait.


Don’t Like: That Someone Keeps Leaving the Pretzel Jug Lid Ajar

December 16, 2008

This is my 100th “Don’t Like” Post. In the interest of being epic and profound I was going to write a big-to-do on something important or some kind of commentary on the things we don’t like in society… But that kept delaying me, so instead I’m going to post some non-important Seinfeldian BS.

Someone keeps leaving the lid off the pretzel jar.

This is infuriating.

This goes beyond mere office politics. Pretzels get stale in the open air. Who doesn’t know that? How hard is it to put the lid back on? Yet it happens everyday. I’m thinking they physically CAN’T do it and feature complete malnutrition because they eat pretzels all day. It’s just stupid.