Monday, December 19, 2005

Quote of the Day

"Gibson is a mere grunt in Fox’s army. Bill O’Reilly, the network’s most prominent religio-political commentator, is its Patton. The shortage of anti-Christmas atrocities (plus the fact that the U.N. fanatics long ago switched to subverting Halloween) may explain why he has concentrated on department stores, many of which, in their ads or via their salespeople, wish people “Happy Holidays” instead of—or in addition to, or more frequently than—“Merry Christmas.” ( In 1921, Henry Ford attacked from the opposite flank, sneering that “the strange inconsistency of it all is to see the great department stores of the Levys and the Isaacs and the Goldsteins and the Silvermans filled with brilliant Christmas cheer.”)

O’Reilly sat out Vietnam. In the war on the War on Christmas, however, he not only has been in the trenches but has gone over the top. “I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday!” he said the other day. And, “I’m going to use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that!” And, “There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together!” And, “And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me!”

O’Reilly sees the War on Christmas as part of the “secular progressive agenda,” because “if you can get religion out, then you can pass secular progressive programs like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage.” Just as Christmas itself evolved as a way to synthesize a variety of winter festivals, so the War on Christmas fantasy is a way of grouping together a variety of enemies, where they can all be rhetorically machine-gunned at once. But the suspicion remains that a truer explanation for Fox’s militancy may be, like so much else at Yuletide, business. Christmas is the big retail season. What Fox retails is resentment." - Hendrik Hertzberg

Kong is King

"King Kong cost over $200m (which is ridiculous), but the film is as proud of its testosterone as Kong is of his massive strength. I think it quite possible that Kong will surpass the present box-office record held by Titanic. It deserves to go that high, for it is flat-out brilliant in nearly every detail except being half an hour too long. Not that there are many sequences the fans will want to sacrifice. And while we expected the onslaught of money and computer effects, the best thing about this King Kong is the way Peter Jackson has re-invented and enriched the love story. This is not a review, and I'm going into no detail, but King Kong is what the movies are meant to be." - David Thomson

This is not a review either, but I was really underwhelmed by Kong. The effects are inconsistent, ranging from the dinosaurs on Skull Island, which are nearly Sound of Thunder bad, with characters running in front of screens making one think of Land of the Lost before Jurassic Park to the truly incredible stuff on the Empire State Building. Namoi acquits herself nicely, which she must, as her performance is essentially the entire film. If you don't believe in her, in her affection/love for the beast, the whole enterprise crumbles. Brody's not much more than a prop and Jack Black never gets it, never fully plunges into the vile depths that are potentially there for him. It all feels very stock, actors filling their roles, doing what they need to do to move everything along, but never doing anything magical or surprising.

This is my beef with Narnia too, where the effects are all over the place in quality, but more imporantly, the kids (save for Georgie Henley as Lucy) are awful, as bland as can be. I'm not asking them to match Tilda Swinton (who may actually be from Narnia), but they never once engage you. They bore you. They annoy you. And the film never takes off because of it, never fully captures your imagination. The Potter people, seemingly pulling from the same pool of young actors, found great leads and consistently fill in the supporting cast with charming, dynamic kid actors. The fine line, I guess. But, Kong's not all bad, even if it's an hour too long. I just can't help but drift off when I've reached the thirty minute mark of watching someone else play a video game. Anyway, the Thomson piece is mostly a string of predictions for the Oscars and also an analysis of what Hollywood's choice for Best Picture could mean ("In the end, though, it will be Brokeback or Kong, and the winner will be an indication of what Hollywood now regards as its future."). He also shows love for Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney's work in The Squid and the Whale and calls Munich "extraordinary." Check it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Film Crit of the Day



"They're always kissing or having sex in movies. That's why I don't watch them." - Co-worker, aka "Mira Mira" (It's like working beside Laura Mulvey. Or not.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Quote of the Day/War on War

"Since "special rights" has been a term of aspersion among conservatives for decades, would-be theocrats have at least the decency to be too ashamed to demand them explicitly. Instead, they've learned the power of the victim narrative, of framing the debate to cast themselves as underdogs. Rather than attempting to entrench their values, demagogues purport to be playing defense against a plot to "purge religion from the public square," trading on the same ambiguity in the word "public" that has eased the acceptance of ever more regulation of privately owned establishments that are open to the public, and allowed for the metastasis of the term "public health," which now apparently covers not just infectious disease control or mosquito abatement, but smoking and obesity. Since the battle is a reactive one against the undifferentiated forces of anti-Christian bigotry, such nice distinctions as that between a business that fails to cater to its customers and an arm of the state adhering to strict neutrality can be dispensed with. More importantly, moderate Christians with no desire to impose their faith on others might be convinced to support a re-Christianization of public life on the premise that they'd only be defending themselves against marauding secularists.

The stratagem is so perverse as to be almost admirable: Take a holiday associated with sentiments like peace and goodwill, mix in some well-intentioned attempts to acknowledge it in an inclusive way suited to a pluralistic society, and then use the combination to generate fear, divisiveness, and high ratings. But whether we're impressed or appalled by that cynical ploy, whether we're gearing up for Christmas dinner or just a post-Ramadan pig-out, we can all breathe a little easier knowing that the anti-Christmas "jihad" is no more real (sorry kids) than Santa Claus. Happy holidays." - Reason's Julian Sanchez (12/20/04)

Mythmaking



I grew up an Adventures of Robin Hood obsessive. You may read that sentence in many ways, most notably as “I’m a NERD.” Up until junior high, I was way into medieval times, but in a safe, medieval and Robin Hood themed Legos instead of twelve sided die kind of way. But all of it was tinged with Adventures of Robin Hood. When my uncle (who was the curator of a historical residence and its grounds) curated a Renaissance fair, I expected ample exclamations (“Huzzah,” “For King Richard,” etc.), pigs roasting on spits, mutton chops, and general medieval debauchery by way of Warner Bros. as opposed to fat ladies in velvet mumus selling heinous jewelry and speaking in “old English” beside their husbands, sad middle aged hippies cum fake blacksmiths or if they’re lucky, the guy who makes the hawk land on his arm. This experience still stings.

But it’s never hurt my love for the film. Neither have the multitude of other Robin Hood films, the majority of which suck, save for the Costner version, which I shamelessly enjoy, especially when one considers all the fun changes: the Sheriff of Nottingham goes from Chief Wiggum to a blood thirsty lunatic, Will Scarlett goes from clever gay sidekick to brooding Jack Nicholson impersonator, and Robin Hood goes from badass to plywood, but I still don’t care. After all, the French speaking, blood thirsty, war monger that is Richard the Lionheart is still everyone’s favorite gentle king, in both cases regal and beloved, and, in the latter, Scottish. And in watching Robin Hood this past Saturday at the Aero (in Santa Monica), as Errol Flynn swoops onscreen with “Welcome to Sherwood,” and Olivia de Havilland goes from casual Norman racist to Norman activist (but always in something sparkly, even when jailed) and Claude Rains does everything but actually twist his mustache and Flynn plays Robin Hood like a great egalitarian union leader, a man of the people, with Prince John’s deer on his shoulders as a weapon, and Basil Rathbone gets blue balls at every turn, I remembered exactly why I loved it, in all its candy coated Technicolor glory. It makes the legend real, the fantasy as vivid as possible, even if all the facts are wrong.

Ironically, I went to see Syriana afterwards, where all the facts are there and all the drama is missing.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Quote of the Day

"Many of McCarthy's friends never reconciled themselves to his endorsement of Reagan in 1980, but he was governed in this by a firm conviction that Carter had disgraced the office and abdicated all claim on re-election, and I have the impression that there are fewer people now who genuinely wish that the pious Georgian had enjoyed four more years. At any rate, McCarthy then was following both a logic and a principle and pressing both to a conclusion. If he had put his party first in 1968 nobody would ever have remembered him, as some of us do when we reflect so gloomily on the choice of hacks and careerists and mediocrities from whom the professionals will be selecting on our behalf three years from now." - Christopher Hitchens, in his excellent obit for Sen. Eugene McCarthy

Friday, December 09, 2005

Earmarked.

Sure, sure, it's not the Goonies house in Astoria, OR. It's not my favorite imaginary museum/addition to an already existing museum: The Jane Wyman Was My 1st Wife wing to the Reagan Presidential Library. But one now must consider the following (via The Club for Growth) when planning your next cross country adventure throughout these contiguous United States:
Consider this — the Army Corps of Engineers is, in large part, to blame for the levees breaking down in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Now, thanks to Republican Senator Thad Cochran, part of the funds being used to help pay for Katrina relief — approx. $13 million — will be used to build a museum celebrating the Army Corps of Engineers!

Let’s repeat that.

Part of the money being used to fix the levees will be used to celebrate the government’s inability to build levees that don’t break.
Here's some video from CNN on this. Start planning your trip now. (via Hit & Run)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

For that mildly special someone.



The Onion A.V. Club has a hilarious round-up of cheap toys to buy for kids you don't like so much. Or maybe you're that shitty aunt/uncle everyone has, and your idea of gift giving involves a late night run to Walgreen's. Either way, there are some choice items. For example, My Scene: Hudson (from $8.99 to $16.99 and pictured above, in what I believe is his "Club Birthday" mode), a doll for...no one(?):
Don't get it twisted: blandly hunky My Scene teen dream Hudson comes with a soccer ball, trophy, and wife-beater shirt, but he ain't about perpetuating no lazy stereotypes, fool. "Being an athlete doesn't mean you have to be a jock, know what I'm saying?" he pleads on the back of his box in his signature Wafrican-American version o' Ebonics. He goes on to explain that he plays in a co-ed league with "some total hotties." What kind of total hotties? "This girl Madison," for starters. Then, in a daring rhetorical move, Hudson shifts to addressing Madison directly: "Wassup, girl?" That's some seriously dope flava you're kickin' there, Hudson! Madison won't be able to resist your smooth moves. The back of the box goes on to insist that Hudson and the rest of his My Scene boyz are "Street cause they wannabe, fresh 'cause they have to be."
Madison, take my advice. Walk away. Hudson's no good. Just ask Chelsea.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

...and that.

Hua Hsu dumps an ice cold bucket of haterade on the Black Eyed Peas' latest entry in the "worst song ever" contest, "My Humps."

Saul Bellow's Seize the Day, a day in the life and mind of a has been (a failed salesman, a floundering investor, an unloved and wayward son, a bitter ex-husband, an actor whose only part was as an extra made to only mimic playing the bagpipes as the music would be provided in post), may be the best book ever written about Yom Kippur. What What, you say? Mmmhmmm. Not just your run of the mill midlife crisis. Bellow is, as Josh might say, a "Lion for Zion." Deal with that.

Coming into this offseason, the Mets needed the following: a cleanup hitter, a catcher, a closer, and, if we're to get a little greedy, better middle relief and a frontline starter. Thus far, the Mets have acquired Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca, Billy Wagner...and, okay, Xavier Nady might not get you all tingly, but I bet he does aiight. Yeah, that's right. So, enjoy the moment. And continue visting Matthew Cerrone's invaluable Metsblog compulsively for all news Zito/Eischen/Vasquez/Manny/Affeldt related. Because right about now, you could be a Marlins fan. And that, I assure you, would not make you feel tingly. Unless degradation and humiliation is what gets ya moist. If it is, you've found your team. And just think, if they move to Vegas, you can wake up feeling dirty and remorseful for a whole 162 game season instead of just one weekend where you spend too much on a stripper with braces.

The composite sketch of the South Park kids = best. Also best: "gingers," "no, Clyde it is not like Juwanna Mann," the Smith(s) credit sequence after getting Tom Cruise out of the closet, dead whales on the moon, and a statue of the Virgin Mary bleeding out her ass. The new season is over already. Not best.

Food, glorious food.

"The food industry doesn't spend $10 billion a year on ads to kids because they like to waste money. Their ads not only work, they work brilliantly." - Sen. Tom Harkin

Unlike the food industry, Harkin works in Congress, where many dicktards like him love wasting money on idiotic studies that tell us shit we should have known for 50 or 60 years by now. I prefer it when Harkin is attempting to foist shitty candidates like Howard Dean on an unreceptive public, but only for the occassional psychotic outburst that such an endeavor promises. The stunning news that Booberries are not part of a balanced diet or that advertisers want me to buy their product even though it might not be the best for me or my children comes as a great shock, as I'm sure it does to every shitty, worthless parent for whom this study emboldens to continue to blame everyone but themselves for their fat, unruly, violent, stupid kids. Funnily enough, the study itself isn't as bold as Harkin, stating "the current evidence is not sufficient to arrive at any finding about a causal relationship from television advertising to adiposity." But the potential opportunity for censorship of any kind is much sexier than being responsible. After all, if parents took the care to make sure their kids had a proper diet or exercised regularly, Harkin might have to do something important, or, worse yet, difficult and potentially unpopular, y'know, like cut public school funding so that those schools will have to whore themselves out to Pepsico or McDonald's. Something fun like that.

Get your war on.

Today is Christmas decoration/Nacho Fundraiser day at my county government office. (My menorah was neither requested nor offered . And, no, I'm not offended, per se. Frankly, I hate the national menorah and all its money wasting eight days of wonder.) However, I suppose today is a bit surprising, if you're to believe there's a "War on Christmas." Granted, if you believe that, you might also be intensely distracted by shiny objects, but I digress.

So, in our small office, we have a well decorated tree, lights in every corner, hanging snowflakes, a few snowmen, window stickers, poinsettas, and, underneath the tree, a miniature nativity scene. But, there is one problem. For the past hour, everyone has been searching frantically for one last thing. You see, Baby Jesus is missing from the nativity. (He was also missing and never found last year, but I enjoy watching the yentas run around in circles, searching for a lost item never to be found.) The search has been exhaustive, but the prospects of finding the little glass tyke don't seem good. He may be/is lost forever. My offer of replacing the lost baby Jesus with a magical stack of post-its has, thus far, been turned down.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Apocalypse on a shoestring

"In Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force, for example, Kirk Cameron has to take Ben Judah, a respected rabbi, to the Wailing Wall so that he can tell Jews everywhere that Jesus Christ is Lord. Israel is represented by a few stone walls obviously made of plywood, some Christmas-tree lights, and 500 volunteer extras wearing leftover costumes from a Nativity pageant. The Wailing Wall is patrolled by soldiers dressed in World War II army uniforms. The producers have also dubbed in the sound of goats during scenes set in downtown Jerusalem, which leads to the unusual notion that modern-day Israel is populated by WWII re-enactors, nervous-looking people in bathrobes, and goats." - from Grady Hendrix's piece on the Left Behind films at Slate, which has provided me with the unhealthy urge to spend a day watching all of them, in a row, drinking nothing but plague curing communion wine (...wait for it). And if you're thinking that a Growing Pains rerun (even a later, more Cameron controlled one, with mutant Ben and his unibrow playing opposite Dicaprio) is enough to satiate your appetite for Kirk Cameron related fare, the following proves just how wrong you are:
Thanks to Sony's money, the third installment is slightly more upscale—it's even got Louis Gossett Jr. as the pistol-packing president of the United States—yet the series still can't shake its low-budget mindset. The president slips out of the White House in the trunk of a hatchback, invades a chemical weapons lab (the nefarious Nicolae has been poisoning Bibles, causing Christians to become sick), takes out the bad guys by surfing down a flight of stairs on their faces, and then sneaks back in to the White House undetected. Once there, he orders the "SS" to launch an attack. I think he means the Secret Service, but I'm not sure whom the president is trying to scare, as we've already seen his Secret Service detail and there are only two guys on it. At the end of the movie, the Christians discover that communion wine can stop the plague, and the president finds God and almost immediately sacrifices himself in a missile strike on Nicolae. A fine effort, but Nicolae emerges from the rubble without even a smudge on his European menswear.
Cameron apparently added five o'clock shadow to his performance in the latest film, so as to exude a tougher, more aggressive version of Mike Seaver than say the episode where he gets the Dear John letter from the nanny he almost married before Jesus forbid him from pretend fornicating with a girl who'd posed nude. Oh, and in an ultra-classy move, Cameron's wife has been cast as the Whore of Babylon in all of the films. In a word: best.