SQOG - the Sasquatch Blog (February 2011 posts)
****All the posts below are bigtime SPOILERS if you haven't seen, read, or heard the entertainment I am talking about. Look at the post heading for the day and decide if you want to be spoiled on that topic or not.****
-Monday, February 28th, 2011: OSCARS 2011 Review, 5 Days/5 Movie Moments: THE FIGHTER
I found this movie to be kind of messy, with shockingly strange scenes mixed in with some phenomenal acting. I loved the beginning, that camera following Micky Ward as he is running around the quiet morning streets of Lowell, Dicky’s incessant voice in his ear. Christian Bale as ‘Dicky’ is just incredible; he fills up the skin of this sad, sick man and makes him a character that we will remember for years. Amy Adams is great against type, but more effective in her scenes with Micky than with the Ward family. Mark Wahlberg as ‘Micky’ is quiet, conflicted, intense; a non-showy role that deserves a lot more credit than it has received. I have problems with the Ward family scenes, that crazy-ass Greek chorus of Lowell women. Yes, it’s funny and grotesque, but these scenes feel like they are coming from a different movie. The family is so over-the-top, they are damn close to coming across as broad farce. And this is in a movie that wants realism, a movie that has boxing matches filmed as if they were HBO fights. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I find it really hard to believe that real people are this far gone. I hate bringing up personal connections, but I do have a friend who grew up in Lowell and he said that the Ward family depiction is ridiculous. That being said I liked Melissa Leo’s performance, just as long as she was away from her nutso daughters.
But the moment in this film that really rocked me was right at the end, in the last Micky/Dicky (Wahlberg/Bale) interview scene before the credits. I read somewhere that these interview scenes were improvised, which adds to the loose and real emotion caught in this last bit. If I remember it right (it’s been a while since I saw the movie), Micky is wrestling on the couch with Dicky, but then he gets called off-screen. As Micky laughs and leaves the scene, Dicky tears up a bit, pointing after Micky, talking about how proud he is. Dicky is being teased at from off-screen, so he wipes his face, laughs, and runs off after his brother. It’s a wonderful quick and playful dip into the well of deep emotion inside of Dicky, and it’s so stunningly played, I was really blown away by those short 15 seconds. For this scene alone, I'd say Bale deserves the Oscar. So many movies sag their way through the epilogue, I really love a movie that gets the last scene right and sends you into the credits with a smile and a little something stuck in your eye.
-Friday, February 25th, 2011: GOLF - FedEx Cup Commercial
I love the game of golf, I really do. I enjoy the strategy needed in placing each shot and how nice it is to get out and walk some lush green fairways. It’s a nice 4-hour break from the tedious business of your day. The game can crush you and elate you in just 2 shots, but over the course of 18 holes, you will always have one shot that keeps you coming back for more punishment. That being said, it is not a visceral, action-packed death sport. It’s a precision, gentlemanly game, filled with a lot of overweight white dudes. But if you look at the hilarious commercials for the FedEx Cup tournament (if you can get past all the Viagra and Cialis commercials on the GolfChannel), they would lead you to think that the PGA Tour is one step away from the UFC.
Take this commercial for example. First of all, they completely steal that fog-horn music from INCEPTION. I mean really, ‘There comes a time when every generation must rise up.” Come on guys. This is golf, not GLADIATOR. I mean, it is a humongous $10 million prize for the winner of The Fedex Cup, but no one is out there breaking others’ kneecaps with a 4-iron. The commercial tries to build up all this competition by using normal video clips of the players. They have their eyes peeled in competitive manners, even though the players were probably just thinking about what they were going to eat for lunch that day.
That being said, there is one shot in this commercial that sends a chill down my spine. At 16 seconds, they show Jim Furyk’s slo-mo fist pump bellow when he won the FedEx Cup in the rain last year. With the rain and the emotion of the reaction, now that’s an awesome, inspiring, competitive golf moment! Even though Furyk seems like a decent guy, he is usually one of the most boring guys on tour; slow, steady, quiet, not a big hitter. But this shot makes him seem like a titan. I know there are plenty of these inspiring and visceral moments in golf history (hell, Tiger alone could fill 10 whole commercials). Let’s show those awesome moments instead of more shots of Mickelson and Johnson squinting in the sun!
-Thursday, February 24th, 2011: CAST AWAY - The Ending
Caught this on HBO again the other night and I couldn’t turn it off. This movie still gets a lot of crap; the WILSON!!! yelling, the ambiguous ending, the crappy whale fx, I feel like the film gets a bum rap. Except for that nighttime whale scene, that really is some damn bad fx! But, I realized how much I miss Robert Zemeckis as a live-action director. I love his carefully plotted long and steady shots, and how he lays out each movie. For example, there is no orchestral music in CAST AWAY until Hanks finally escapes the island. Then he looks back at the island, almost with fondness, because he’s saying good-bye to his home. The music is haunting and simple, and what a beautiful decision to only start it right then. But I also love the details when Hanks comes back, like getting ice again, and I was always really affected by his simple realization about life’s setbacks, “The sun always rises, and you never know what the tide will bring in.” Maybe it was how good Hanks was in that scene, but I always loved that simple line.
But, the moment I want to point out is the ending. For whatever reason, I am a huge fan of ambiguous endings. I like ones that aren’t really endings, but are new beginnings, filled with possibility, like the beginning of a next chapter. When things aren’t tied up in a little bow. Examples would be how much I loved the ANGEL series finale, or the end of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. I love that Hanks is at a literal crossroads, that he feels the wind and revels in the knowledge that he has complete freedom of choice, nothing holding him down. The music swoons and we move in on him, and he looks past the camera, maybe to Mexico, maybe after the pretty girl in the truck with the ‘wings’ symbol, maybe he’s looking at nothing at all. And then it fades out. It’s up to the audience to continue the story, and it reveals more about the viewer than it does about the filmmaker. What does it say about me that I want him to go after the pretty girl in the truck? What does it say if I want him to go back to Helen Hunt and find a way to work it out? How about just drive to a beach in Zihuatanejo? God, I love this peaceful and hopeful ending, and it really just made my Wednesday night. Come back to the real world Zemeckis!!
-Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011: STAR TREK 4 - Double Dumb-ass
I can be such a movie nerd. I remember living in Minnesota when FARGO came out, and there was this one really quick scene that was filmed in the parking lot of an Embers restaurant by my high school. Well, I just thought that was the coolest thing ever so I went to that parking lot and took a picture, trying to get the right angle on the Highway 394 sign in the background. I mean, I get it, location/place is such a huge part of our memories, and just being in the same place that a movie is filmed can impart a visceral thrill. You know, like, if I was here only 3 years ago, I would have been in the movie!!! Well, I had another moment the other day. STAR TREK 4: THE VOYAGE HOME was on the other night, yeah, the one with the whales that takes place in 80s San Francisco.
Come on, this movie is a blast! It loosens up the original Star Trek cast, getting them on actual locations and not soundstages. Who can forget ‘Double dumb-ass on you!’ or the ‘nuclear wessels’ or Spock neck-pinching a bus punk? There is also some trippy imagery in this one. Like the cloud heads of all the cast members and the water-diving mannequin in the time sling-shot dreams. What the hell was that about?! I also like that the script teases each of the characters, but in a sweet, redemptive way. Like Scotty being unable to talk to the computer, but then it turns out that he is a typing maestro. Or McCoy in the hospital, mumbling about the Dark Ages, but then the script actually allows him to have a short conversation with a 80s doctor where they argue about proper medical technique. I love that short exchange.
Anyways, when I watched the movie this time, I noticed that the street corner where the ‘double dumbass’ and ‘nuclear wessels’ scene was filmed, is at Columbus and Kearny, right by my work!! So, of course, I had to stop at the corner on my way into work this morning, try and get the angles right, and take a picture. Ok, I’ll admit, I might have even asked someone where Alameda is. So much has changed there. Apparently, right across from the Zoetrope building, there used to be a Winchell’s donut shop, which we totally need to have come back. I love it, I’m 30 years old, and I can still feel like that goofy kid in braces with a camera in a cold parking lot, geeking out about movie locations and legacy.
-Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011: JUSTIFIED - The Bedroom
Whoo boy, is anybody as excited as I am that JUSTIFIED has returned?? Tim Olyphant can do no wrong for me at this point . . . in television. The less said about Olyphant’s film career (LIVE FREE DIE HARD, DREAMCATCHER, HITMAN anyone?), the better, but after his turns on TV in DEADWOOD, DAMAGES, and THE OFFICE, Olyphant has found another defining television role. Raylan Givens: US Marshal is witty, cool, complicated, and just plain awesome. And the second season is already off to a damn good start. I’m loving this new creepy Big Bad, Mags, and her in-bred brood. Plus, I am happier that Raylan is with Winona rather than Ava. There’s just a better chemistry between these two, and also, because I think Ava and Boyd are going to be hilarious together! Anyways, this past week’s episode, S2E2, “The Life Inside,” had a great closing scene in the bedroom that deserves to be mentioned.
The main plot of this episode dealt with Raylan protecting a pregnant convict. Near the end, Raylan returns to his hotel room and runs into Winona’s husband, a fun scene that reminds us how Raylan already lost Winona once, so there is no reason it couldn’t happen again. He enters his hotel room to find Winona in bed. She asks him who was outside and about his day, both questions that Raylan deflects, as always. You can tell that this lack of communication is one of the reasons this couple split up in the first place. He sits on the bed, talking about names he and Winona had come up with for the baby they never had. He touches her stomach and just lays his hand there. The camera sits on his hand for a few seconds, then wordlessly cuts to each of their faces. It’s a lovely moment, we can see how badly both wanted a baby, and through the day’s terrors, how much Raylan is reminded of that fact.
Winona attempts to bridge that gap again, asking Raylan about his day. This time, he tells her: he watched a pregnant woman get threatened with a gun to her belly and saw a man get shot through the neck. Winona lays back and utters a great line, “I can handle that, Raylan. I can’t handle silence.” It’s quiet, it’s subtle, but these two are suddenly going down a road of open honesty that they have never gone down before. I understand that, to have drama in long-form television, secrets must be kept, and that open conversations between characters can sometimes deflate drama. But sometimes, it’s wonderful to see 2 characters who care for each other actually talking, sharing, and growing. And the scene ends perfectly with Raylan turning that honesty back on Winona and telling her that it was her husband that he was talking to outside the room. She laughs like it’s a joke, but then stops suddnely with an 'Oh crap!' look , then we cut to black. Perfect. Like a classic Whedon episode ending. Welcome back JUSTIFIED, I can’t wait for the next few weeks!
-Friday, February 18th, 2011: VIDEOGAME TRAILERS - Dead Island
I have really enjoyed this small facet of entertainment art that has sprung up over the last few years. Beautiful trailers for shoot ‘em up video games. I’m not a huge player of videogames, but have been known to have my past obsessions with HALF LIFE or DEAD SPACE. I know a couple guys in the Bay Area who work on video game design, and I have found that the creativity of these guys is just bursting. They want to do art. And it’s showing in the beauty starting to be found in trailers for videogames. I’d say this whole trend started with the GEARS OF WAR trailer, a beautiful quiet piece that sold all the horror and lament of this particular game.
Well check this trailer out for the zombie videogame DEAD ISLAND (warning, videogame gore here). It has the twists of MEMENTO with a touching song to tie it together. That bravura shot of the girl falling up through the window is a tremendous sequence; I was shocked at how beautiful it was. No matter how disturbing it is to see a girl fall out of a window and despite the fact that these are just videogame pixels, I felt a sense of awe and relief when the window fused back together in front of her. Now, I would argue that this trailer is 2x too long, the middle time shifts get confusing. But it all ties up beautifully at the end: In the straight timeline of events, the father is picking up his daughter to save her from zombies, but since this sequence is being played in reverse, it looks like he’s letting her go. And since we know that the girl will shortly end up dead, it is a really poignant manner in which to show the relationship between the father and daughter. The dichotomy of saving and letting go, all wordlessly shown through the prism of time jumps, I mean, that’s creativity, that’s art. In a shoot ‘em up videogame. About zombies.
-Thursday, February 17th, 2011: CHARLIE SHEEN - Douche
Ugh, I don’t really want to comment on all the crap out right now regarding this dillweed and his most recent half-assed attempt at rehab, but this radio thing is just over the line. I’ve never liked this guy as an actor, really, I think WALL STREET and PLATOON are lesser films because of him and his best role was the drug addict in FERRIS BUELLER. But this is just insane. He called in to FoxSports “The Dan Patrick Show” this week and revealed some really witty and deep thoughts on certain topics:
On sobriety: “I was sober for five years a long time ago and was just bored out of my tree. It's inauthentic -- it's not who I am. I didn't drink for 12 years and, man, that first one [drink], Dan. Wow."
On how he’s ready to work after less than two weeks in rehab: “It's like, I heal really quickly. But I unravel pretty quickly. So get me right now, guys.”
And my favorite, about what he said to the UCLA basketball team: “I said stay off the crack, and I still think that's pretty good advice, unless you can manage it socially. If you can manage it socially, then go for it, but not a lot of people can, you know?"
Just makes me sick. The reason he is a functioning addict is because he has, and has always had, millions of dollars to throw at his addictions and his cover-ups and his enabling yes-men friends. And he gets rewarded for it by being paid 2 million/episode to be the star of the biggest crappy sitcom, TWO AND A HALF MEN, on TV. This man is also an admitted wife-beater and look, if he wants to kill himself with drugs, cool, no problem here. If he believes that rehab is useless, ok fine, his beliefs. But keep that crap to yourself man, don’t call in to a radio show and put that out there. It’s not like he said these things while cornered in an interview, he volunteered these rants by calling in! Kids and families watch this show, and I find it hard to believe that there aren’t kids out there thinking that if Charlie Sheen can be a functioning crack-addicted gazillionaire, well, so can they! Look, I know money rules in LA, especially the extraordinary amount of money they are talking about with this show, but doesn’t the studio have some moral obligation here? There are ethical clauses in TV contracts and even though I’m sure Sheen’s clause is pretty watered-down due to his fame and his past, this recent behavior must be breaking that clause. I don’t believe in the idea that celebrities should be role models for youth, but if a celebrity is on a family network, is it too much to ask that they don’t call in to a radio show to extol the virtues of being a self-obsessed, functioning crack addict??
-Wednesday, February 16th, 2011: HIMYM - Dads
I don’t usually watch this show, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. There are actors that I love here. Neil Patrick Harris can do no wrong in my book after DR HORRIBLE and his mighty guest appearance on GLEE. Alyson Hannigan will always be sweet ‘Willow’ from BUFFY to me, so I’ll follow her anywhere. And Jason Segal deserves viewers to make up for how few people watched FREAKS & GEEKS. And I LOVE YOU MAN was one of the funnier movies I have seen in years. The problem I have with this show is that none of the above actors are the main characters. Instead, the show is focused on this really whiny guy, Ted, and his equally annoying friend/love interest, Robin. Yuck, I just can’t stand the way those two characters are written, and so I can’t watch the show regularly. They are just so shrill, self-centered, mopey, and unattractive. However, flipping channels last night, I caught an episode and felt compelled to talk about it.
Marshall (Jason Segal) goes home to Minnesota to see his Mom and come to terms with the death of his Dad. He has this great speech late in the episode when he remembers being in a car with his family as his Dad drives down a dark road. “He was like some superhero who could see way out into the darkness. Now he’s just gone, and it’s pitch black. I can’t see where I’m going — I can’t see anything.” It was really sweet, such a concise and poignant way to describe the hole that appears when a loved one passes. I also liked the later scene when Marshall is driving in the dark and he imagines his father in the backseat. His dad says that he couldn’t actually see in the dark, but he had faith that everything would be alright. I like these small serious storylines in comedies that sneak up on you. They are really quick, but sometimes you just get rocked by the emotion they impart.
-Tuesday, February 15th, 2011: V - Good episode??
Woah. Woah. Hold on a minute. I’m losing my mind because I think ABC'S 'V' just had a good episode last week with S2E5 ‘Concordia’. This show is abysmally bad, it really is. I wonder why I am still watching it. Well, I know why, part of it is that I like sci-fi, and I really like some of the actors like Elizabeth Mitchell (Erica) and Morena Baccarin (Anna), and want to see them act. Baccarin in particular is so wonderful at playing this lizard queen in human-skin. She has very small character movements that constantly inform the viewer that she is not human. For most of the time, it’s a very subtle performance. The other reason I watch is that I want to see how bad the show can get before its inevitable cancellation in a month or so. It’s hard to pinpoint what is so wrong with the show, but I’ll sure as hell give it a shot. The plots never move, the writers play it safe. The rebellious 5th Column is terrible, the dialogue and motivations for those characters are really just awful. Why on earth did the 5th Column let Ryan stay when they know Anna is holding his baby hostage?! Did they really think he wouldn’t betray them for his own kid? Why can’t Tyler just die already, his motivation is terrible and he is awfully whiny, he’s like this decade’s Wesley Crusher. The show also pays no attention to its own politics. We are on the side of terrorists here, but we are not supposed to think about. The only way I conclude this is because in some scenes the 5th Column is painted in sympathetic colors, in other scenes, it is very clear that they are to be condemned. This doesn’t feel organic, but like different writers with different agendas jerking us around. And the show can be nasty gory. Was it really necessary to wave around the skinned face of Erica’s partner in a recent episode? I like that actress, she was duplicitously wonderful in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, but to have your dead skinned face paraded around by Anna is just insulting.
OK, ok, back to the good things. This past episode was a nice assassination attempt plot with real heft, danger, and tension, which is a nice change of pace. In one scene, Erica, all nice and dressed up for the banquet assassination attempt, tries to get her ex-husband back in her life in order to keep her son, Tyler, close. First cool part is that I love that the ex-husband is played by Krycek from X-FILES, love that guy. They have a sweet scene where Erica asks him to stay the night on the couch. Elizabeth Mitchell plays the scene lightly, with a little laugh (a nice change of pace from her character’s usual dour visage). It’s neat, because you can see the character thinking. Erica knows she is flirting, but kinda likes it, even though she knows it’s ridiculous. She leaves her ex with a smile and an embarrassed laugh, a really well-acted bit from Mitchell that tells us more about her character than the past 5 episodes. When the assassination attempt goes wrong because Ryan betrayed them (after a cool shot of bloody-faced Erica hugging Tyler at the podium so her son would be out the way of the assassin’s bullet), it looks like something will actually happen now. We end on the face of that foreign 5th Column member, Kyle I think, who is always in tight black t-shirts, looking really bad-ass, ready to skin himself a lizard. Might we get another good episode coming up?
-Monday, February 14th, 2011: NATHAN FILLION - The Man
Valentine's Day is here, so I thought it fitting if I wrote about a certain man-crush/bro-mance I have. There is just no one in entertainment cooler than this man: Mr. Nathan Fillion. I think I first saw him when he was a Big Bad in the last season of BUFFY, playing ‘Caleb’, the murderous Southern preacher. I thought he was a great bad guy; playful, but still deadly as shown when he (shudder) helped Xander get something out of his eye. His line about a ‘tasty white zin’ is just awesome. Then FIREFLY, as ‘Mal Reynolds’. This was the Fillion coming out party. He brought so much pathos, heart, and humor to the Han Solo-esque role, it was impossible not to love him. Possibly my favorite moment of any television episode ever was in “Out of Gas”, after spending the episode fighting for his ship and his family, we flash back to the beginning of Mal’s journey, when he first lays eyes on his home, his ship, Serenity. The peaceful look on Fillion’s face tugs the heart-strings. He went mainstream for a bit in a string of rogue-ish roles, his best being the suave doctor in WAITRESS and the hopelessly love-lorn friend in TRUCKER. He went really big time as the writer in CASTLE, yet still found time to be the insanely awesome ‘Captain Hammer’ in DR. HORRIBLE and as the murderously clumsy construction worker in PG PORN.
I’ve met him very briefly a couple times and heard him talk to fans, and he seems to actually be the gracious and stand-up Canadian gentleman that he appears to be. His one rule with fans is that he doesn’t hug people he doesn’t know, which I first thought was a bit rude, until I thought about it for 5 seconds. He is a film nerd and proud of it. On the commentary track to SERENITY, Fillion talks about the differences between the movie and the movie’s tie-in novel. There is this long silence on the track as the other commentators must have been looking at him incredulously, then Joss Whedon says, “You read the movie book?! Who does that?!?” Fillion’s easy-going personality isn’t just on screen, but on the sets as well. Look at the hilarious gag at 6:43 during this FIREFLY gag reel. And easily the best part of SLITHER is the gag reel, where Fillion takes a stupid joke and makes it a hilarious running gag throughout the entire making of the film.
All this comes up because I was watching CASTLE last night, and even though I really dislike the cop plots, I love the interaction between Fillion, the squad, and especially his love interest, Beckett. Castle is a child sometimes, but his heart is so damn big. His playful relationship with his daughter and the sweet ways he shows his respect and love for Beckett are wonderful. But so much of Castle’s humanity, good-heartedness, and playfulness seems to come straight from Fillion. I don’t think he’s the best actor in the world, but I think that he is one performer whose joy and humanity comes out in every role he plays. And that’s just beautiful. I’d give an arm and leg to work with him one day.
-Friday, February 11th, 2011: TMIMW - Manscaping
A friend pointed this particular ad out to me the other day, I just found it hilarious. As a folically gifted man myself, I am not a fan of the manscaping trend, espoused everywhere from JERSEY SHORE to movies to other TV ads. I have a hairy chest dammit, and I will show it! This guy’s response is just perfect, and while I usually think that, while fun, The Most Interesting Man in the World can’ hold a candle to the Old Spice guy in terms of humor(Hello LadiesHow Are YouFantastic!), this ad was pretty damn funny. There was also a New Yorker article that tracked down TMIMW, you should check it out here. In the meantime, stay thirsty my friends, and check out the man who can speak French . . . in Russian. Whose organ donation card also lists his beard. Whose DVD collection has never been alphabetized. Whose blood smells like cologne. I give you: The Most Interesting Man in the World!
-Thursday, February 10th, 2011: Music: CRAZY HEART - 'Wesley's Piano'
Listening to the soundtrack from that Jeff Bridges movie, CRAZY HEART. There is a short track in there called ‘Wesley’s Piano’. It’s when Bridges walks into a bar where he is scheduled to perform that evening and meets his piano accompanist, this balding, regular-looking dude, Wesley. Wesley plays a little ditty, which impresses Bridges. It’s a small bit, but the music is so nimble, and the talent just tinkles through the notes. I love the image of this guy who looks like an overweight insurance salesman, finding one state of grace in the keys of a piano. I remember a passionate discussion with my family the other day about what ‘honkey-tonk’ music is. Is it its own type of music, or is it just music that’s played in a honkey-tonk bar?? No decisions were reached, but this little piano ditty feels like honkey-tonk. It has atmosphere and grit, as if the keys and pads on the piano were lubed with stale morning whiskey. Love it.
-Wednesday, February 9th, 2011: BLADE: TRINTIY - WTF?!?!?
I caught a bit of this on TV the other night, really, how did this go so bad?? I remember way back watching the blood bath scene from the original BLADE in the theater with my brother, looking at each other with these giddy faces, marveling at the bat-shit awesomeness happening on-screen. I mean, really, a blind brilliant computer programmer played by that girl from AMERICAN PIE? Seriously, listening to an iPod while engaging in combat, effectively eliminating your ability to hear vampires creeping up on you?!? Come on, man!! The writer/director David Goyer went on to co-write THE DARK KNIGHT, so maybe he just needed to get this out of his system. And Ryan Reynolds is apparently in an entirely different movie. How else to explain his digressions about vagina fangs, ass cheeks, garlic farts, lesbian vampire jokes, and a line about a “horse-humping bitch”?! Though his abs are insane in this movie. Seriously, that’s like 6 months of chicken and egg whites. I’m as straight as they come, but damn dude!
-Tuesday, February 8th, 2011: SMALLVILLE - Silence
I’ve written about this unexpectedly amazing 10th season of SMALLVILLE elsewhere, but I just had to get in another mention. Every episode is still such a plotty mess, but there are moments in each one that send shivers down my spine. Erica Durance as ‘Lois Lane’ continues to knock her performance out of the park. Her ‘Lois’ is sexy, smart, annoying, loyal, and goofy. In a similar manner to the equally excellent Allison Mack as ‘Chloe’, Durance is forced to say some of the worst TV dialogue ever, but she somehow convinces us that she believes every word. Anyways, SMALLVILLE just came back from a break and I really loved how they started this first episode of 2011, Episode 11, Collateral. We are moving slowly through the Kent farm as classical music plays, we see Lois waiting by the phone, her face worried and sad. Eventually, the silence breaks and we find that Lois is on hold, trying to find out where Clark is. Unfortunately, the rest of the episode dissolves into MATRIX-clone drivel. But those opening moments, when we sit with Lois, when we can feel her grief and her tension, it’s just beautiful. And this is a busy CW show that depends on wordy exposition and flashy effects, so where did they find the time to just sit with one of our leads for awhile, silently, and let her face fill in the story?? There was also a wonderful moment later on in the show where Clark got to fly with Lois in her arms, but this quiet moment was the one that really stood out for me. This show is usually the opposite of subtle, and sometimes that’s the best thing to find, a quick moment of silent artistry in pure pulp.
-Monday, February 7th, 2011: SUPER BOWL XLV - Best Ad
For another Super Bowl, we had a good game! Despite the 21-3 Packer lead at the half, the Steelers managed to make it close by the end. And Rodgers got his due. Which he should have gotten as a 49ers QB. Instead we got Alex Smith. That’s worked out well for us so far. Before I spiral into a rage-fueled 49ers staffing rant, let’s move to the best part of any Super Bowl, the ads. Of course, we had our fair share of ball-shot commercials. Now I like a good commercial about physical pain/embarrassment as much as the next red-blooded American, but damn some of those just felt lazy this year. If its physical rage we need, let’s get some Terry Tate up in here, make it a whole story. Not this kind of farting embarrassment from a few years back. Though I thought the Bridgestone one this year was good, having personally seen what happens with a careless click of the REPLY ALL. OK, no more tangents. The best ad by far, and I am certainly among the majority of viewers, was the VW Passat commercial with the kid in the Darth Vader costume. Cute, funny, dialogue-free, it’s like a Pixar short film. You get the idea, the plot, and even some whimsical wonder at the end, really a perfect touching little commercial. And the kid’s floppy double-take at the end is the best. Not to go too far overboard analyzing a commercial, but isn’t that what we want? A little awe and warmth in a good funny commercial? Not another lazy kick to the crotch? That same E.T.-like vibe infused the best Super Bowl movie ad, SUPER 8. Innocence and wonder, a child’s quest; ideas that build some of our most lasting entertainment, and it’s nice to see a commercial lightly tap that creative vein.
-Friday, February 4th, 2011: SPARTCUS: GODS OF THE ARENA - The Walk
I have a soft spot for the STARZ show, SPARTACUS. I’ve gone into much greater detail about what I liked about the first season of SPARTACUS in other articles, but this post is about the 1st episode in the prequel 6-parter SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA that I watched last night. I was a little hesitant about this new prequel, but if the first episode is any sign, this series should be just as pulpy, sexified, and miles over-the-top fun as its predecessor. Near the beginning of the episode, there is this hilarious walk that the lead characters take through the streets of Capua. It is a plot dialogue download, not done in a particularly subtle way, catching all the viewers up on what is happening in this new series. Now, the leads are interesting enough to watch on their own, Lucy Lawless as ‘Lucretia’ and John Hannah as ‘Batiatus’ are awesome, but the show’s creators apparently got worried that the audience would get bored watching these characters walk and talk for 10 minutes. So, they throw everything at you! As the characters drone on, they pass by slaves being whipped to bloody shreds, completely naked slave girls being marched down the street, and most hilarious of all, Batiatus stopping to pop a squat in a very public toilet. Sure, maybe this all very realistic to the historical details of a Roman city, but all I could think was, “Did John Hannah really just wipe his ass with leather and then hand the leather back to the toilet slave?!?” I can’t remember one single thing that the characters were talking about. And I have no doubt that is exactly what the show’s creators wanted. Well played.
-Thursday, February 3rd, 2011: THE SIMPSONS - McBain
Remember those glorious days when THE SIMPSONS was good? I mean, you have to go way back, like a decade ago. For awhile there, I had entire episodes memorized. I remember taking an hour-long car drive from Lake Tahoe to Reno sometime in the late 90s, when my brother, me, and a friend spouted off Simpsons’ lines for the whole hour. My mom still shudders to think about that car ride. Everyone has their own personal favorite episode, be it ‘Marge vs. The Monorail’ ‘Cape Feare’ ‘Homer’s Phobia’ ‘Mr. Plow’ . . . My own favorite has got to be ‘Twenty-two Short Films About Springfield’ or the Prohibition one, or the Lemon tree/Shelbyville one. McBain, Duffman, Cletus, tomacco, I could go on. Anyways, I saw this video compilation today and got so happy, remembering those magnificent days. When THE SIMPSONS was appointment TV, when everyone wanted to try Duff, and when rakes were considered the pinnacle of prop comedy. Even here, in this video, I think there is a big difference between, say, the diner scene and the finale scene. The finale scene is from a later season and its a straight up action parody. The diner scene is from earlier in the SIMPSONS run, and there is so much more there. The over-lapping dialogue, the name of the boat, the crazy action-movie angles on the shootout. And my favorite part of the diner bit, the idea that McBain is not just a Schwarzenegger-clone spouting action movie cliches, but that he's also a really terrible actor! That doesn't come through in the finale sequence. OK, stop, reality-check: I just spent a paragraph analyzing a cartoon parody.
“Right now I’m thinking of holding another meeting—in bed.” Check it out here. (UPDATE-they took down the link! I'll keep looking)
-Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011: SUNDANCE 2011 - Rant
I saw this post today online which just made me so damn mad. Start rant:
Sundance Film Festival 2011
It was a good year for movies, but boy was it a good year for producers. So many financiers made their money back you'd actually think this business was profitable.
Sonofabitch! Of course, this is the year when people start buying independent movies again. I know, this sounds whiny, but damn I thought Tze and Mynette made a fantastic movie with CHILDREN OF INVENTION which premiered at Sundance in 2009(I was one of the producers). It had no stars, but it was a story about family and timely pyramid schemes, and it always seemed to always touch people in the audience. One of my favorite things to do in 2009 was the post-film Q&As for this movie at film festivals across the country. Guaranteed, after every screening, there would be a couple people that would stick around, affected enough by Tze’s story that they felt compelled to tell me their own personal experiences with money schemes and family. It felt so good knowing that I had helped, no matter how slightly, create something that touched people. This is what I want to do in the film business, this is how I want to participate. So how come this movie didn’t deserve a chance to be bought and seen by the general public? Because we went to Sundance during a recession?!? Even THE LEDGE got bought this year, and sorry, that was terrible!! SONOFABITCH! End rant. And ranting aside, congratulations to those that got picked up, its still one hell of an achievement.
Also, this was cute today, watch the lower video here. Is that the camera crew laughing so hard at Matt Lauer’s joke?? I really hope so.
-Tuesday, February 1st, 2011: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS - The Vince Show
Now there’s the show I know and love! I was catching up on Season 5 DirecTV episodes of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, and so far a little disappointed with the slow start for the year. But the 3rd episode, “Right Hand of the Father,” really killed with the scene between QB1 Vince, and Coach Taylor. Over the last 2 years, The FNL team has never hesitated to put the big scenes on the shoulders of Michael B. Jordan. In this episode, he was dealing with his father getting out of jail and re-entering his life, his girlfriend becoming the team’s equipment manager, and Coach coming down on Vince to be a leader. When Coach Taylor calls Vince into his office to chew him out, Vince breaks down, eventually screaming about his father, “I don’t know how to be better, because he never taught me how!” Coach T quiets down and offers Vince his advice, as supporting and fatherly as only Eric Taylor’s advice can be, “I said strive to be better, not be. That’s what character is, in the trying.” Damn what an awesome scene, a fantastic showcase for the increasingly brilliant Michael B. Jordan and another reminder why Kyle Chandler’s ‘Eric Taylor’ is television’s most effective molder of men.