Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are You There, Blog? It's Me, Lisa

I don't know how to start this, my 200th post on this blog and my big comeback, other than to say that I have no clue how to start it. I haven't written anything on here or at all since that Sarah Palin post on October 13th, and that was nothing more than snarky fluff. So, it's been well over four months since I've written anything substantial with any regularity. And for the majority of that time, I barely saw any movies. I never wanted to take a break from writing or film (especially not film), but it just turned out that way. The universe had me in a choke hold. So much happened during my time away that I don't even recognize myself or my life anymore, and I'm still trying to work out if that's a good thing or not.

I don't want to get all melodramatic; this isn't a pity plea. But I do feel a sense of loyalty to this blog and to my readers, and you deserve to know what's been going on to keep me from being here. So, I'm just going to rip off the band-aid and give you a list. Here goes, in no particular order: moving out of the home that I'd lived in for over twenty years for the first time and dealing with the accompanying trauma and the constant missing, moving a second time after only one month in the new place, leaving behind family, leaving behind my beautiful dog Molly (one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make), finding new homes for my sun conure Buster and my darling rats, getting new pets, life with a puppy, relationships ending and beginning, isolation from friends, futile job hunting (the hours I spent...), getting and losing two potentially awesome, though not related to my career, jobs (SO complicated), health issues, not being able to find a job ever, being jerked around in the job search, severe psychological distress, financial woes (like, being broke all the time), losing faith in myself, losing faith in my ability as a writer, feeling like I'll never make it or fulfill my dreams, reevaluating my dreams, chronic Writer's Block, feeling like a stranger in my own body, and deciding that things needed to change. See? Painless.

In a way, I feel like I've been buried alive (but barely alive), and I'm only now trying to claw my way out of the grave. But it's still a long way up. I got proactive about a month ago by hurling myself full throttle back into cinema. I saw 10 films in the first two weeks of this catch-up project, and then I saw some of those again, bringing the total of individual showings in two weeks to 15. After that, I saw some more, but it dwindled considerably. I was exhausted. I still have a list of about 10 in theaters now that I have to see, and Santa is bringing us like a dozen more films on Christmas Day, most of which look really good. And then there are all the reviews I still need to write, from mid-summer on. It's overwhelming. And I haven't been able to write worth a damn. I didn't know if I would ever be able to write again, and I wasn't sure that I should even try. It's been terrifying.

Then, I wanted to come back to the blog so badly and write anything, just to get the gears moving again, but I felt the need to write an "explanation post" first, and thus I agonized over that process. The self-imposed pressure was suffocating. I wanted it to be perfect, but nothing ever is. As I'm writing now, it feels awkward. I'm rusty, I know it. But I had to do an explanation post of some significance, so here it is. And here it will stay. I don't want to read this ever again. I want to leave all of the negativity behind and start fresh from this very moment. I just needed to get it out - not all of it, but enough to be able to move forward and be meaningful and do meaningful things again. I know emotions and catharses aren't particularly professional, but if I can't do it on the internet, where millions of people could, in theory, read my private thoughts, than where else can I do it, right?

Before I end this, let me say that I'm really, really sorry that you had to see that horrid Sarah Palin picture every time you came here for the past two months. Please forgive me.

Oh, and hey, President Barack Obama - how about them apples? :) It's nice to be proud to be an American for once. And I'm extra proud to live in Illinois! Well, except for that whole "most corrupt state in the nation" thing and the illegal shenanigans of our buffoon's ass of a governor...that's not so good. Not surprising either. But I'm still going hold my head up high as an Illinoisan. It's the Land of Lincoln, and now it's the Land of Obama. Hell to the yeah.

Anyway...I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'm eager to start the journey again. Giddy up, boys and girls.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Killer Body Barbie

Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks' BRILLIANT article, "Body Politics: Sarah Palin's Body Language And Why It Should Worry You," from The Huffington Post totally made my day. It tickled me, and I hope it tickles you, too.
Since our last post, we've been asked many times to comment on Sarah Palin's mannerisms. Her Body-Talk is not as blatant as her running mate, probably because she has a background as a performer in beauty pageants and television. She has learned to conceal the smirks and clenches that play so openly across the countenance of John McCain.

In our work we call body language the Five Flags, because there are five major ways human beings react when they're not speaking the authentic truth. Twitches and jaw-clenches are examples of Flag #1, Body-Flags. To understand Sarah Palin, though, you need to understand Flags #2 and #3, Voice-Flags and Attitude-Flags. The English word 'personality' comes from two Latin words, per and sona, "through sound." The Romans knew that the personality comes through in the tone of voice and other vocal aspects.

From thirty-five years of clinical experience, we can tell you a lot about Sarah Palin's real personality and why it makes many people even more nervous that John McCain's.

Attitude-Flag #1: The Aggressive Confidence Of The Con-Person

Sarah Palin has mastered one fundamental requirement of a Republican president: she can smile and look you directly in the eye while telling an outrageous lie. At least when John McCain lies, his body screams his discomfort by putting on an eye-catching display of twitches, phony smiles and robot moves. McCain's body language is so strange that it's easily observable; he appears to be operated by a puppeteer who is a couple of triple-espressos over the line. That's a good thing, though. We'd much rather have a presidential candidate who reads like a comic book when he's lying than one who conceals those whoppers under a grin and a wink. Sarah Palin belts out her deceptions and distractions with a radiant confidence we usually only see in sociopaths and infomercial pitch-persons. The last public figure we saw who could grin and lie with that kind of sunny confidence was O.J. Simpson.

Voice-Flag #1:
The Exaggerated Folksiness Of The Huckster

Our partisan colors may peek through subtly from time to time, but we do our best to be non-partisan lie-catchers. We cringed when Bill Clinton did his famous "I did not have sex..." line. We immediately looked at each other and said "uh-oh," because his body language let us know loud and clear that he did indeed have sex with "that woman." About ten minutes after Clinton's declaration, our phone started ringing from producers of talk shows wanting us to comment on Clinton's body language. They knew they'd seen something, but they couldn't figure out exactly what.

More recently, we cringed when we heard Sarah Palin start using more of those pseudo-folksy expressions such as "You betcha" and "doggone-it." She was droppin' so many g's on-stage at last week's debate that the janitorial staff may have had to work over-time pickin' 'em up, by gum. The last eight years have taught us all a sobering lesson: you don't have to be smart to be the President of the United States. However, we hope that America is smart enough to see Palin's exaggerated folksiness for what it is, a cheap trick to cozy up to us so they can sell us four more years of Bush Lite. We hope America will hear those "You betchas" and send Mc Cain/Palin a message right back: Just because you pretend to be dumb and folksy, you don't automatically get to live in the White House.

Voice-Flag #2: The Metallic Shriek Of The Fear-Monger

To emphasize certain points, Sarah Palin takes her voice up the tone scale to a metallic shriek. This tone will be familiar to many of us: it's the voice your mother employed as a last resort to get you out of bed when you were a teenager. It's designed to scare you, to rake fingernails across your inner chalkboard. She often uses this voice when she first takes the stage at a rally. It works quite well there, because it cuts like a knife and jolts any of the faithful who might be dozing to sit up in their seats. We hope Americans are not so sleepy as to vote in favor of hearing this tone of voice for four years.

Here's the bottom line: The McCain/Palin campaign strategy is based entirely on stirring up fear. It's a classic way to distract people from thinking about real issues and to cover up the lack of any real solutions. Their thinking goes like this:

• If we can get people scared that Obama might secretly be a Muslim or a terrorist, maybe we can get them not to think about the real issues.

• If we can get people scared that Rev. Wright might turn the inaugural benediction into an anti-American rant, maybe we can get them to believe America's economic problems are just something cooked up by the elite media as a way to play "Gotcha" on poor Sarah and John.

• If we can scare people into thinking Barack HUSSEIN Obama is going to put Louis Farrakhan in charge of the annual White House Easter egg hunt, maybe people won't notice that we have absolutely no solutions to the real problems they face.

Barack Obama has so far opted to run a positive campaign based on hope and thoughtful solutions. It's our fervent desire that he continue to do so, because it's about time we turned our national attention to positive possibilities. Over the past eight years we've had enough fear-mongering to last a lifetime.

(Stay tuned! In our next post we'll look at two more important bits of body language that we all need to be paying attention to during the campaign. We've noticed these flags at play in both Joe Biden and John McCain, and they spell trouble for all of us.)


I'll stay tuned indeed! Watching that vice-presidential debate...ugh. I saw all of this as clear as the Alaska sky before shooting a polar bear or a wolf. How can so many people be so blind?! Oops, gotta go - reckon that doggone polar bear over yonder is looking to rassle. You betcha. Lock and load.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Beautiful Man

We knew he was sick, we knew he didn't have much time left, so we should have been prepared for Paul Newman's death, right?

Sigh. Wrong.

I was moving all day yesterday, so even though I was deeply upset, I really didn't have time to process the devastating news until now. And the verdict? I'm heartbroken. Paul Newman is truly one of the greatest of the greats, one of the tallest of the towering cinematic giants, and the golden boy of Hollywood's golden age. He was also a phenomenal human being. He will be missed terribly.

I didn't cry until I went to IMDB this morning and saw the tribute on the home page. That was when I first felt the sting. All my love and thoughts are with Joanne Woodward and their family.

Mr. Newman, you will always be in my heart. Not even death can dim the light in those radiant blue eyes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

She's the Cheese to His Macaroni

A picture is worth a thousand words. So...enough said, right?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Preston Sturges!

Today marks what would have been, and still is for those who celebrate him and his work, the 110th birthday of cinematic legend Preston Sturges.

I bring him up on this blog as often as I can (if it's even remotely possible to relate something to Sturges, I WILL make the connection, guaranteed), but for those who don't know, Preston Sturges is one of the best writers who ever lived, one of the most gifted and important writer-directors of any time or any medium, an extraordinary human being, and my hero. He occupies a very special, and sizeable, place in my heart.

Preston Sturges is a constant source of inspiration for me. Not a day goes by that I don't look to him for artistic, literary, or personal guidance. Every time I think about writing something, every time I look at a blank computer screen waiting to be filled, every time I place my fingers on the keyboard, and every time I experience the exhilaration that surges through my mind and body when the gears click and the words start flowing, he's there. He is my muse.

Happy birthday, Mr. Sturges, and thank you.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bob Kabob

This upcoming Sunday, August 17th, Comedy Central is airing a roast of Bob Saget (who's looking GOOD, by the way), everyone's favorite obsessive-compulsive, ultra-tidy, oft-hugging, speech-over-sappy-music-giving TV dad, Danny Tanner.

I am ridiculously excited about this.

Harry Potter and the 8-Month Wait

I was half-paying attention to the WGN Morning News today until the words "Harry" and "Potter" caused my head to snap up from the computer. The release date of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, originally scheduled for November 21, 2008, has been moved to July 17, 2009.

Summer of 2009?! Merlin's pants!

I understand the greedy reasoning behind it, and I at least respect that they're not even trying to hide their motive ("Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc, said it had decided to make the change to bolster its release schedule for the lucrative summer moviegoing season -- a period that can account for as much as 40 percent of Hollywood's annual box office receipts"), but COME ON. They finally released a legit trailer, and it's SO tantalizing, and now we have to wait a full year from that first glimpse?! That's just cruel.

Eight months is a bloody long time.

How I'm Taking the News: A Photo-Roman in Two Parts

It's Finally Happened

Oddly-named celebrity children are speaking out. First up, Rumer Willis!

"Rumer Willis was taunted by high-school bullies because of her bizarre name.

The daughter of former Hollywood couple Demi Moore and Bruce Willis hated her name, insisting she 'got screwed' by her famous parents' choice."

See, stars? There are repercussions for your bizarre whims. Gwyneth, I'm looking at you...

Sell-Out (n.): see George Lucas

My favorite Metacritic blurbs this morning:

"The Clone Wars is the last nail in a coffin that has been propped up ever since George Lucas sold his creative soul in the quest for a few more pieces of gold." - James Berardinelli, ReelViews

"At what point might animators be arrested for doing work so ugly it causes aesthetic blindness in millions of younglings?" - Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

"The whole thing feels like a continuation of Lucas' experiments to see how much sh-- his dwindling supporters will take before finally saying "enough" and moving on to adult pursuits." - Pete Vonder Haar, Film Threat

Don't mistake this next statement as joking or affectionate:

George Lucas, you filthy, filthy whore.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Hitch!

On August 13, 1899...

...the Master was born.

And cinema could never know what was about to hit it.

So, grab your binoculars, dial "M" for murder, outrun that crop duster, put on your best necktie, do whatever strikes your fancy to celebrate the life and career of Sir Alfred.

You can even take a shower...if you dare.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

She's Got It, Dude

I unearthed a link of this random news article from a month or so back about Jonathan Levine's film The Wackness and the on-screen sexual chemistry between Sir Ben Kingsley...and Mary-Kate Olsen. Bizarre pairing, n'est-ce pas? Well, even weirder than the mere idea of them acting opposite each other, they make out.

From the article: "He's a screen legend – heck, he's even been knighted! But Sir Ben Kingsley isn't above a little kiss-and-tell when it comes to his on-screen smooch with 22-year-old Mary-Kate Olsen in The Wackness. 'She was completely in charge,' the actor, 64, tells PEOPLE of their enthusiastic make-out scene in a telephone booth."

And weirder still...it's kind of hot.

Aww, little Michelle Tanner's all grown up and kissing knighted British actors.

Movie Moods: The Ladykillers

Despite my love for the Coens, I hated The Ladykillers (2004) so much that I walked out on it with about 20 minutes left. I don't EVER do that. Alas, the movie fits my mood for the morning.

Professor G.H. Dorr (Tom Hanks): "Madam, we must have waffles! We must all have waffles forthwith!"

There's a brand-new waffle maker sitting in the kitchen, and I'm about to make me some waffles for breakfast! Mmm mmm.

In the spirit of waffles... it HAS been 4 years - I think it's about high time I gave The Ladykillers another chance.

Monday, August 11, 2008

They Shoot Pretty People, Don't They?

I saw Shoot 'Em Up in theaters last year and absolutely loved it. It was a blast (no pun intended, but I'll take it). Most critics hated it. They thought it was too violent. Well, yeah, that's the point; however, it seems like they all missed it. Writer/director Michael Davis exaggerates the violence and exploits the clichés of the action genre for comic effect. It's clear that Davis loves the genre that he's mocking, so it's an affectionate homage as well as being a very intelligent, entertaining movie in its own right.

I think Shoot 'Em Up is the movie that Wanted aspired, and failed, to be. I saw Wanted, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, a long time ago (opening weekend, actually), and as I predicted then, I have mostly forgotten it. From the trailer and the ads, Wanted seemed to be in the same parody vein as Shoot 'Em Up. I mean, obviously, the massive quantities of curved bullets and the ridiculous scenarios couldn't be serious, right? Wrong. Well, mostly wrong, anyway. There were moments that were downright farcical, as well as some playful "breaking the fourth wall" stuff that I liked a lot. But ultimately, Wanted takes itself too seriously, and that's the fatal blow.

Oh, sure, Wanted is entertaining enough sporadically. The special effects are pretty cool...the first thousand times or so. Really, does everything need to be in slow-mo? It's too show-offy, and since Wanted kind of drags, maybe it's not the best course of action to prolong that feeling. And WE GET IT - the bullets curve! Learn a new trick!

The acting is enjoyable. Morgan Freeman gets to play a badass bad guy for once (whoops, spoiler? I can't remember if that's a huge secret, but trust me, it doesn't matter) and has some hilarious lines. Angelina Jolie is back in badass form herself. She's hot, sexy, aloof eye candy, but not much else, although to be fair to Jolie, who I respect a lot, her character isn't really required to be more than that.

On that note, Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy are beautiful, beautiful people. They're hot. Easy on the eyes. So, let me pause to include some gratuitous pictures:

Pretty people with guns. God bless America.

[Insert segway back to the review here.]

James McAvoy stole the show for me. I loved seeing him playing an assassin-in-training so soon after seeing him in a weepy melodrama (Atonement). His character in Wanted is Wesley, a corporate cubicle drone (the Office Space vibe is perfect because he really sells it). McAvoy brings nuance to the role and actually made me care (a little) about Wesley's conflict - should he stay at his humdrum job and be a nobody all his life, or, don't laugh, should he follow his destiny, become an assassin, and be a part of something bigger?

The fact that McAvoy made me care at all is a triumph for him as an actor, because the plot is rather stupid and unremarkable. This fraternity of assassins, which is centuries and centuries old, was started by, I guess, weavers. They take their orders from the - are you ready for it? - Loom of Fate. The Loom...of Fate. Sigh. The loom literally weaves out a name, and they kill that person. Right, I'm sure fabric is never wrong. The Loom of Fate is perhaps the lamest plot device/prop ever. Stick a curved bullet in this movie. It's done.

Pop quiz, Hot Shot: what do you get when a movie isn't smart, thrilling, or inventive enough to be a great action film, cleverly over-the-top, insightful, or committed enough to be a parody, and has no substance or story to fill in the gaps?

Answer: Wanted.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

P.S. The Loom of Fate has just produced a name for me: Danny Elfman.

How I could have neglected to mention him in this review confounds me. Danny Elfman composed the score for Wanted, which, honestly, I don't remember one bit. And I don't plan on refreshing my memory. Sorry, Danny. I wasn't really paying attention to the score because I didn't know it was him until the end credits rolled. When his name popped up, I was stunned. I guess the score's adequate for what it needs to be. Whatever, though. I highly suspect that this was a paycheck movie for him and the main actors.

That being said, I somehow found my way to the score on iTunes because I did recall a killer song over the end credits. To my surprise and considerable delight, the song, entitled "The Little Things," one of the best alt-rock tracks I've heard in years, was written and performed by...Danny Elfman! Songwriting, in the lyric-y sense, is rare for him since he gave up his music career to focus on compositional work, so I cherish this song because I know how special it is coming from him now. His voice is smooth, melodic, commanding, sexy, catchy perfection. He hasn't lost his rocker touch one bit over the years.

This song is the best part of Wanted. Download it.

Phew. I'm glad the Loom of Fate had my back on that one...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Windy City Tragedy

Bernie Mac died this morning at age 50. I'm not a huge fan of his by any means, but I was struck by the news and felt compelled to write something. I respected him as a performer, I always thought he was funny, and he was a good guy (good guys wear black - right, Mr. Mac?). I feel really sad losing one of Chicago's own so abruptly, and so young. The gloomy day outside is fitting.

Bernie Mac, you're a fellow Obama supporter (sorry you won't be around to see how it plays out), a fellow White Sox fan (hell yeah!), and a fellow Chicagoan. You will be missed.

Rest in peace, Mr. Mac.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I Sold My Soul for $3.99

Yes, Lady in the Water was on sale at Best Buy for $3.99, and I bought it.

Shocked and/or confused? Does reading this review make me seem like a hypocrite?

Well, I did it, I'm admitting it publicly, and that's that.

I just love Paul Giamatti THAT much, and I think he's THAT damn good in it.

Case closed

Meet Brad as Chad

Here's a brief yet great introduction to Brad Pitt's character in the Coens' Burn After Reading. Oh, and after that video, there's an intro to George Clooney's character, too, if you want to watch that. While George is great with the Coens, my focus here is totally on Brad.

I predict that this is going to be an epically iconic performance. Caliber-wise, we're talking Jeff Bridges, a.k.a. The Dude. Brad Pitt's character Chad also answers to His Chadness, El Chaderino...

Ooh, I can't wait! I heart Chad already. And I really, really, really heart Brad.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I was lazily scanning the "news" (I hardly think Desperate Housewives' James Denton not wanting more children constitutes as news, nor does the story I'm about to mention, really, but I'm fascinated by it nonetheless) articles on IMDB yesterday, and I came across this:

Blair Wants Acid Trip
6 August 2008 9:06 AM, PDT

Actress Selma Blair has confessed she wants to travel to Amsterdam and take acid - to feel better about herself.

The Hellboy star admits she is always criticising her looks, and the only thing she likes about her body is her hands.
And when filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro suggested that taking drugs would boost her confidence, she agreed.

Blair says, "You know what Guillermo thinks? That I should go to Amsterdam and take an acid trip and it would fix my head. I think he could be right you know.

"You know, I've done some things to excess but I hate pot and I've never done acid or ecstasy. But if I was in the right frame of mind, in a pleasant, creative, chilled-out space, with just the right amount delivered by an Amsterdam technician, that would be incredible."

And, asked about her plans for the future, Blair adds: "I'll be happy and say something nice about myself for a change, I'll have gone to Amsterdam, done acid, done some amazing theatre in London. Beautiful!"


Okay, Guillermo del Toro promoting acid trips - that explains a lot.

But seriously, Selma? SERIOUSLY? I know it's legal in Amsterdam and all, but is this really something she wants to tell the whole world about? Doesn't she have a filter for this stuff? Isn't this what publicists are for?

Perhaps she should try therapy or psychoactive drugs first. But, I guess therapy is for schmoes, right? Why be that constructive? If you have the money, by all means, fly to Amsterdam on a whim to take an acid trip and possibly fry your brain even more. If she's suffering from mental illness (like her dangerously low self-esteem, desperation to share this information, and general manner of speaking seem to indicate very strongly), I really don't think the best idea is to play around with brain chemistry like that. It could potentially make her problems worse, not solve them like she believes it will.

Sheesh, when did I turn into Nancy Reagan?

Anyway, I'm really quite open-minded about life and the things people do (it's their business, after all), and I'm extremely reluctant to pass judgment, but come on, this was stupid of her. It's not something you should tell the press, and she sounds like an idiot to boot. And it's not news-worthy either.

TMI, Miss Blair. TMI.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Feminine Intuition

Quite a few months back, I wrote a rather cheesed-off post about the remake of George Cukor's The Women (1939), in which I basically condemned the new movie and called it a bitch slap to the face of the original. This was perhaps a premature judgment, but come on, going off of that cloying, condescending initial poster and what I believed then was uninspired casting (or, at least, my difficulty imagining these contemporary actresses trying to fill those stylish classic shoes), can you really blame me? But, I can admit when I'm wrong, and I think I was wrong about The Women, version 2008. This is very much a foot-in-mouth moment for me. Granted, the movie could still turn out to be a complete disaster, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt (it's a new thing I'm trying these days).

The trailer is what converted me:

It was after viewing this the first time that I said to myself, "Hey, this actually doesn't look totally repugnant." And believe me - that, at the time, was the highest compliment that I could possibly give it.

Eva Mendes looks delicious, Annette Bening could very well do Rosalind Russell justice, and Meg Ryan already looks a hundred times better than whiny, doe-eyed, nobody-can-really-be-that-earnest Norma Shearer. I also dig the racial diversity, something that wasn't exactly peachy keen in 1939.

They've also wisely adopted a new poster. They went from this gag-inducer...

...to this fun and much more tolerable model:

So, here's to the original film, to the memory of the glorious George Cukor, to Roz and Joan (Crawford, not Fontaine), to a new generation of women, and to the possibility of some intelligent feminist satire in the seriously-lacking present day.

I'm on board now, ladies. Don't make me regret it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

My Brain Revisited

I don't remember when it was exactly, but the first time I became aware of the existence of the now-playing Brideshead Revisited, a British period melodrama, I thought it was a horror film. Yes, it stars Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon, not innately scary actors in the slightest, but I didn't know they were involved then. For some reason, the name alone made my mind go there, to the horror realm.

This is somewhat disconcerting, no? Did this happen to anyone else? Or, if not, doesn't it sound like it COULD be a title for a horror film?

Validation is welcome.

Additionally, I would now like to see this film.

Friday, August 1, 2008

One Ticket to Barcelona, Please

Below, you will find what is, in my opinion, one seriously scorching hot, hot, hot movie poster. Woody Allen, you devil! I like this side of you.

I strongly suspect that I will love this film. Is it really coming out on August 15th? Can it be true? I thought that was the limited U.S. release date, but IMDB doesn't list any other U.S. dates. Well, I better not have to wait long just because I don't live in New York or L.A.! *shakes fist*

Did I mention that the poster is really hot? One might even say, given the ethnicities of two of the beautiful actors on the poster, that it's muy caliente! And, with that statement, I have now filled my lameness quota for the day, thank you very much.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ode to a Clown

I apologize for my AWOL-ness lately, but I took an unintentional and, it turns out, a much-needed hiatus from blogging. Rest assured, people, I'm back now.

What better idea for my first entry in a week and a half than to post the pictures of myself Joker-ized for the midnight screening of The Dark Knight? I got really into it (how often can a lady in civilized society purposely smear lipstick all over her face?), and I was quite pleased with the results, but I admit that I'm a bit shy all of a sudden about sharing them. Considering I haven't posted very many pictures of myself on this blog, I'm a bit embarrassed that the bulk of them now consist of me looking a bit psychotic ("a bit" may be an understatement - you be the judge!). Well, it is what it is, right? I was honoring Heath Ledger, and I'm really proud that I executed it successfully.

"See, I'm not a monster...I'm just ahead of the curve." - The Joker

Thursday, July 17, 2008

And Into That Dark Knight I Go...

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We're tonight's entertainment!"

This will be my last pre-Dark Knight post. Wow. I never thought this day would come. To all of you seeing it tonight, or whenever, happy viewing! Live it up. There will never be a cinematic event like this ever again.

Not in the spirit just yet? Well, I ask all of you: "Why so serious?"

For the cast and crew, for this undoubtedly amazing film, and especially for Heath Ledger, let's put a smile on that face.

Some last words...

Batman: "Why do you want to kill me?"
The Joker: "I don't want to kill you. What would I do without you?"

And, when words are no longer adequate to describe your state of euphoria and sweetly agonizing anticipation...


Use lots and lots of exclamation points.

As the Joker might say, I love this job.

"And here...we...GO."

Idle Hands Are the Joker's Playground

This is what happens when you're so excited out of your mind about the screening of The Dark Knight in about 8 hours that you're totally non-functional unless it's Batman-related and you literally can't do anything else with your time...

Well, it's what happens to me anyway. Besides, after posting my doctored Facebook graffiti photo, this seemed like a natural progression.

I promise to post my pictures from the screening tonight, with the look all complete and perfected (this was my first try, mind you). Maybe it's not much, but this is my loving homage to Heath Ledger.

Now, I just hope I'm not the ONLY one who looks like this. But if I am, so be it. I'll hold my creepy head high in honor of Heath.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Let's Put a Smile on That Face

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook and its many, many applications...

For those who don't know, that's me. Yes, I painted Joker graffiti on myself. And it makes me smile.

Wicked awesome.

Going Batty

Gone batty is more like it. I'm totally and completely GONE. I can't believe I'm going to see The Dark Knight tomorrow. It's going to be the experience of a lifetime. And finally getting to witness Heath Ledger's Joker, after waiting for so long and mourning his death... Wow. It's surreal. I'm still mourning, and this will rip open the wounds and make them fresh again, of course, but I plan on celebrating him, his life, and his career in the moment tomorrow night. Sure, I'll cry. I might be the only person doing so, or maybe not. I could very well bawl my eyes out. But I promise that the tears will be mainly those of joy and awe at his achievement, with obviously some melancholy and pain thrown into the mix (I'm only human). I'll deal with my sadness at another time; tomorrow, I plan on savoring the film, having a hell of a great time, cherishing Heath Ledger's tour de force performance, and cheering him on...all the while imagining him somewhere, watching and smiling.

In the meantime, check out this amazing compilation of all the TV spots and trailers for The Dark Knight. It's orgasmically good.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hello, WALL-E!

I'm not sure if Pixar is even trying to make films for kids anymore, and I love them for that (as a non-child). They're definitely still advertising for kids, though, because I was totally blindsided by the scope, beauty, and social resonance of WALL-E. The commercials made it seem kind of goofy, like all WALL-E did was run into things in a cute fashion. While he does run into a lot of things, and very cutely at that, the clumsiness is only one facet of WALL-E's personality. Ironically, a robot who communicates mainly with noises is more three-dimensional than most humans in films today. In that same vein, WALL-E is much, much better than most films released today, animated or otherwise. I don't think of WALL-E as an animated film, or a kids' one - I just think of it as a film, a true piece of art. And that's maybe the highest compliment I can give it.

Watching WALL-E, I felt like I was seeing a film for the first time. It's a completely transcendent experience. I've rarely been gripped by such a palpable sense of awe. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Here's the plot: It's 700 years in the future, Earth is a post-apocalyptic wasteland (with visuals worthy of something like Children of Men) unable to sustain life, the complacently clueless surviving humans are living on a huge space liner somewhere in the galaxy, turned into drooling androids by their total dependence on technology, and WALL-E has been left behind on Earth, totally alone. Well, he has a cockroach friend, and we all know the implications of that. There are plenty of Twinkies, too, and as the myth goes...well, we know that what happened to Earth was catastrophic. WALL-E's function is to compact trash and make it into tidy little boxes. Then, he stacks them and creates buildings out of the garbage. He's been there long enough to have his own metropolis. This is all WALL-E knows, what's he been programmed to do. But somewhere during the course of those 700 years, WALL-E developed a personality and a desire to want more from his existence. While compacting, he picks out the items he likes and hordes them, very much like Ariel from The Little Mermaid. "Look at this stuff, isn't it neat?" Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

So, one day WALL-E is dutifully going about his work, which is lorded over by the ghosts of a mega-company called Buy N Large (stores, billboards, talking ads loom over the city), and a spaceship lands, leaving behind a robot. This robot looks fancy (WALL-E is falling apart), exhibits some aggressive tendencies, and is focused on her (yes, her) objective - scanning Earth for vegetation to see if it's okay to repopulate. Her name is EVE, and the survival of mankind hinges on her discoveries. Pretty brilliant, huh?

WALL-E falls instantly in love with EVE, and she kind of likes him, too. Well, it turns out that WALL-E did find a tiny plant, and when he shows it to EVE in his efforts to impress her with his loot, she scans it, gets the green affirmative symbol, puts the precious proof of life inside of her, and locks down. WALL-E is crushed and continues to care for EVE even though she's turned off (literally) and can't respond. It's incredibly romantic. Soon, EVE's ship comes back to reclaim her, and WALL-E, smitten, tags along on the outside of the craft. They then end up at the Axiom, the luxury liner in outer space housing the humans. The rest of the film follows the fate of that one plant, and ultimately the fate of humanity. That's heavy stuff for ANY film, but even more impressive because it's in this one.

I can't imagine how kids have reacted to WALL-E. Even I couldn't wrap my mind around all of the things that the film was saying. I continue to vigorously ponder its messages. I've seen it twice, and I know there's still more untapped brilliance waiting to be found on subsequent viewings. All I can say is that I think they'll appreciate it when they get older; for now, they're just happy with the slapstick and the adorable merchandise (and WALL-E is a total cutie pie). Speaking of the slapstick in the film, it's on par with anything Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, or Harold Lloyd ever did. I've heard that after seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Chaplin bestowed a standing ovation upon it. He would for WALL-E, too, and it would be even longer and more exuberant. WALL-E contains some of the most intricately choreographed and marvelous physical comedy I've ever seen (Pixar also plays around with it quite a bit in the fantastic magic-themed short preceding WALL-E, Presto). The film contains very little dialogue (Jeff Garlin as the ship's captain and Sigourney Weaver as the voice of the ship's computer get the most to say, and do a great job at it - the rest of the communication is in "robot speak", which I'll explain later), but there's always something going on that no doubt had to be elaborately described in the script, which is why I think this would be the ideal screenplay for film students just starting out and making silents (as I did at Columbia) to study.

WALL-E is a masterful specimen of filmmaking. Technically, it's flawless. The animation is staggering, as you would expect, but don't take it for granted. The visuals are the perfect blend of tasty and nutritious. I felt like I was devouring the screen. The score by Thomas Newman is simultaneously grave and gorgeous and sure to be nominated for an Oscar (if Ratatouille got a nomination for a totally forgettable score, WALL-E is definitely worthy of a nomination and should, justice provided, get one, the latter depending on what other scores pop up as the year goes along, of course). I am, however, POSITIVE that Peter Gabriel's hauntingly catchy tune o'er the end credits, "Down to Earth," will be nominated for Best Original Song. The script by Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter, like I already mentioned, is a triumph. Stanton also directs, proving that he is Pixar's resident genius (sorry, Brad Bird), the force to be reckoned with around the studio. He confidently conducts WALL-E like a symphony.

The robotic voice work is stunning. WALL-E and EVE only communicate by saying their names, making sounds, or repeating a few choice words. Yet, more is expressed with the simplest "EVE" or "WALL-E" in this film than with the most articulate, long-winded soliloquy. Ben Burtt is the sound design maestro responsible for WALL-E (and other characters, including the spunky cleaning bot M-O). Elissa Knight, an actual human, provided the voice for EVE, but it was digitized by Burtt. WALL-E is the result of no human voice whatsoever - only noises mind-blowingly created and mixed together by Burtt. It's unbelievable how much emotion is packed into WALL-E's voice. If WALL-E doesn't get some kind of sound Oscar or recognition for Burtt (through the techie Oscars, at least), then I'll have beef with the Academy...and we all know that's unusual for me.

WALL-E is truly one of the most endearing and complex characters ever created. I adore his dedication and loyalty (to EVE and to his work), indomitable spirit, selflessness, hopefulness, belief in the power of love, and even his anxiety and neuroses. His relationship with EVE is exquisite. WALL-E is seriously one of the most romantic films ever made. One particularly breathtaking scene involves WALL-E, EVE, the stars, and a fire extinguisher. It's a lover's ballet. I was rooting for these two robots to get together more than I do for most live action pairs. And it didn't seem the least bit silly, not even when WALL-E's sole romantic inspiration, his only basis for love, is a worn-out VHS of Hello, Dolly! that teaches him how to court, dance, kiss, and hold hands (the most important gesture of affection and devotion for WALL-E).

Without telling you what happens, WALL-E is perhaps the single most subtle, beautiful, and effective cautionary tale about humanity's greed, over-consumption, all-encompassing reliance on technology, lack of interpersonal connections, and disregard for the environment and Earth, all of which allows them to continue their mindless self-destruction. Does that sound harsh? The sad part is that it's not inaccurate. I'm a cynic (frankly, any American not after 8 years of Dubya deserves a Nobel Peace Prize or something), and WALL-E gave me hope that things could change, but not without shaking my soul first. WALL-E is quite a dark film, but it's disguised so well that you might not even realize it until it's over. I was enthralled from the first second, but even then, it managed to sneak up on me and hit me hard.

I've heard people say that all of the humans on Earth were saved and are now living on the Axiom liner. I don't know when the last time you counted was, but last time I checked, we were hovering around six billion people on the planet. There are not six billion people on that ship. Not even close. Most of humanity is extinct. And of the people on the ship, most are white (not sure if that was intentional, but it probably was). They're also all really fat due to the comforts of technology (space gravity is an issue, as well - bone loss and what not), and they don't know how to function or interact without it. The passengers float around (literally) in a totally clueless, comatose state. It's very pod people-esque, as evidenced by the captain's proclamation after snapping out of it: "I don't want to survive! I want to live!" I think the sheep-like, sedated state of the people on the ship means two things: 1) humankind needs to cool it with the technology, escape its clutches, and learn to live without it, and 2) the remaining government wants the people rendered helpless so they don't ask questions. That's scary in its feasibility.

So, since we see that cockroaches and Twinkies are still around, we know that there was some huge nuclear crisis that caused destruction of the planet as well as a holocaust. Whether this happened before or after the rampant pollution, I'm not sure, nor does it matter. Earth is completely covered in garbage. In fact, since there's no room for it on Earth anymore (despite the compacting efforts of WALL-E and his colleagues), trash is being projected ("disposed of") into space. The general climate of the film also leads me to believe that global warming eventually lived up to the hype. Apparently, a lot happened, and it was all our fault. I'm not being facetious either. Earth didn't destroy itself - we did. WALL-E deals with these issues deeply, sensitively, and movingly without reducing the severity of its moral and social messages one bit. And despite all of the horrible stuff that happens to humanity in the film, the real beauty of WALL-E is that it's not nihilistic. How refreshing and remarkable.

There have been rumors about WALL-E getting a Best Picture nod, and I wouldn't be surprised. It deserves it. I'm not sure what'll happen if it ends up getting nominated for Best Picture AND Best Animated Film (I mean, whether it'll split the votes and tragically get nothing), but I'd like to at least see. Here's my predictions for WALL-E's Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Sound Design, Best Animated Film, Best Score, Best Original Song, Best Screenplay. We'll see how right or wrong I am in about six months.

I have never liked 2001. Yeah, yeah, I know. Cue the throwing of the rotten fruit and vegetables. I just think it's boring as all heck. BUT, I respect it tremendously. It's the benchmark that started science fiction as we know it now. I would even call it the quintessential science fiction film. WALL-E is also worthy of that title. It's just as significant historically, socially, and cinematically, but I find it fascinating and enchanting as a story to boot. WALL-E displays as much reverence toward the beauty and bigger-than-us quality of outer space and life as 2001, and it's truly as powerful, profound, and philosophical as 2001, or any other science fiction film for that matter (I recently compared Danny Boyle's Sunshine to 2001 in its awe-inspiring nature, divine visuals, and poignancy, and I stand by it). That's darn good company to keep.

WALL-E moved me so deeply and stole my heart. It made me laugh, it made me think, and it made me cry. As generic as those last statements of mine might be, I promise WALL-E is anything but.

In the increasingly impressive Pixar pantheon, WALL-E is the best. It's also the second best film I've seen in 2008 so far.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)