Friday, February 29, 2008

Sorry, all

That "There Will Be Blood" review is the biggest piece of shit I've ever written, and I would know. Over the past few years, I have derived countless hours of enjoyment by weighing myself before and after defecation--if for nothing else it allows me to keep tabs on the functionality of my excretory system--on my nice digital scale. For instance, last week I lost three pounds in one sitting. Impressive, I know... Taking that into consideration, I am one who knows about things like big pieces of shit, and that "review" falls squarely into that category. Sorry for having wasted your time, interwebslingers.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Man on Film: Jumper

Utterly forgettable.

Yet another film in which Hayden Christensen spits out every line through a slightly open mouth with what seems to be clenched teeth. His delivery of lines is simply perplexing.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Man on Film: There Will Be Blood


In his latest opus, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (not to be confused with adult film director Paul Thomas or auteur du garbage Paul W. S. Anderson) has crafted his most spectacular work on what is already a formidable resume. There Will Be Blood finds Anderson exploring the all-consuming nature of greed as it pertains to the relationship between America's capitalism and religion, using the burgeoning oil industry in the American Southwest of the late 1800's and early 1900's as the setting and Daniel Day-Lewis--whose performance has been lauded with so many superlatives already that to try to assign another would be a futile act--to become his corruptible lead, Daniel Plainview.

At the film's opening, the audience is introduced to Plainview in his unformed state. Without speech, he toils away in a mine as a silver prospector. Here, he is early man, working with rudimentary tools in a cave. The basic hunter-gatherer, providing for himself and only himself without a support structure outside of himself. As he inadvertently discovers oil while silver prospecting, he gradually evolves from primitive man to man just starting out in a small society, with a small infrastructure of laborers working with him towards a modest goal. As he gains a son, Daniel Plainview becomes not merely a man in a society but the head of a family. It is at this point that he has become pre-industrial man. Starting from the base at which all man started, he has only one step to go to become modern man. The fact that this evolution occurs without any sound past some intermittent grunting and Jonny Greenwood's gripping, against-genre score and remains entirely enthralling is a bold testament to the power of the image over dialogue as a storytelling tool.

When the dialogue kicks in, a few years have passed, and we are introduced to Daniel Plainview, the post-Industrial Revolution man. The modern man. It is in Daniel's own voice that we come to know this incarnation. He explains who he is and his place in this society. Addressing his audience, he begins, "Ladies and Gentlemen, if I say I am an oil man, you will agree." With his son, H.W., at his side, his family business has grown. He is successful, and his love for his son is very real. His want for more wealth does not yet outweigh his love for family; his conquest has not yet devoured his humanity.

As the modern capitalist, Daniel ventures into Little Boston--a settlement in the American west much as one might have imagined the settlement at Plymouth as the American colonies were taking their first shape--and sees to cultivating its previously untapped resource. Just as he begins to lay down claim to the sea of oil beneath them, religion introduces itself to the mix in the form of Eli Sunday, a faith healer in its rawest form. As the oil infrastructure grows, so, to, does the Church of the Third Revelation. And as Eli's power grows, Daniel's adversarial view of Eli grows, too.

Daniel given the chance to make a small concession to Eli, and obviously to religion as a whole. With the "competition" in him getting the better of him, Daniel publicly rebukes Eli, favoring his younger sister, who has befriended H.W. H.W. is then stripped of his hearing in an on-site accident immediately thereafter. Losing a part of his family, albeit symbolically, Daniel lashes out at Eli the next time they meet, and Daniel's hatred inflames Eli.

Daniel's half-brother, Henry Brands, comes into the picture which enables Daniel to continue on with the family business, but as he sends his son away, he begins to lose some of what was keeping him human. Continuing on the road to success, his greed begins to take a stranglehold on him. No longer the provider in the immediate sense for his son, Daniel becomes more and more hellbent on success. As his brother turns out to be less than what he purported himself to be, Daniel sees that the family he had tried to construct in H.W.'s absence cannot be salvaged and he destroys it, and with that destruction he decimates most of what was left of his humanity.

When faced with an opportunity to acquire the last tract of land needed to build a pipeline, Daniel agrees to be cleansed of his sins in the church, but after yelling to all that would hear that he had abandoned his son, he whispers to a power-tripping Eli what one can only assume is the film's title. He has decidedly rebuked religion for the last time, and his humanity seems to be surely be leaving him next.

Even the return of his son--in a beautifully choreographed tracking shot--cannot save him (since Daniel can no longer communicate with the entity that previously kept him connected to mankind), as is made disturbingly clear in a scene which is bizarrely marked with Daniel Plainview calling out a competitor with a napkin draped over his face. Having earlier called into question Daniel's parenting skills only to be threatened with death, he sees the Standard Oil representative again at dinner. Through his behavior it is evident that anything which had been tethering him to his humanity has been cut away, leaving him adrift in his fully co-opted world.

Years later, we are brought us to Plainview's home. This Daniel has crawled inside the bottle and completely lost touch with humanity. He shoots things for perverse recreation in his mansion, which shows signs of having once been nice only to be later savaged by his lunatic binges. When a newly married H.W. comes to see his father, he sets him free once and for all in a brutal manner, and whether he is doing so for his son or out of spite, he does save his son from what one would imagine would be a similar fate. Unfortunately for Daniel, he is also parting with the last shred of his own humanity, and as we leave Daniel Plainview he has become a heartless beast not hesitating to vanquish any and all comers.

Through all the film, Daniel Day-Lewis turns in his greatest performance in what has been arguably the best career over the past 25 years. The rage that seethes beneath his black eyes is so palpable you cannot help but be taken in by Daniel Plainview. As insane as he gets, the audience still finds themselves rooting for Daniel Plainview, which is a credit to Daniel Day-Lewis' flawless turn. Paul Dano holds his own here as well, which is no small feat, and quite simply amazes. Were it not for these two actors, there is no doubt in my mind that the film would still have been immensely watchable, as Robert Elswit's cinematography was otherworldly, and absolutely deserving of the Academy Award it won.

Honestly, had There Will Be Blood won Best Picture over No Country for Old Men, I--for one--would not have objected. In fact, the scope of There Will Be Blood possibly makes it more impressive. This film was that amazing.

Soon to come

Sadly, I've been spending many an hour doing in depth research, creating spreadsheets, and culling all the information I can find in preparation for the all-important upcoming fantasy baseball season. This includes reading through asinine player rankings in which Rich Aurilia is apparently so good that he needs to be ranked three times only to realize that I wasted my precious time scouring over what 'experts' have to say.

The timely review of a film I've now seen twice is coming down the pike.

Speaking of which, I miss you John Pike...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The War is still on!

Well, I don't know. I may have eaten cheese, but if I did, I did so voraciously, tearing it up and spitting at least four-elevenths of what I took in right back out.

Austin record stores: Why do you not seem to have this? Get your shit together.

Crossing my fingers and hoping to see Obama tomorrow.

And be expecting a long overdue entry about a film I feel very strongly about (no, not Heat).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

My triumphant return from Death's Door

So, I almost died.

Well, not really. I just felt like it might be better if I did. I was struck by the flu bug (or at least that's what my old lady would like me to believe... I think it was lead poisoning or tuberculosis) while at work on Wednesday. I started to feel as though I was going to faint and that sensation lasted for the last four hours of my shift, which is largely spent standing up. I toughed it out, though.

Upon leaving Little City, I returned home to a house that could not have been any warmer than 60 degrees. I turned on the heat and got under the two blankets having shed only my shoes and proceeded to shiver uncontrollably (very much like an episode I had on I-35 in Iowa which is an entirely different story, or more importantly, an entirely different blog entry) for at least the next half hour.

When my roommate got home, he gave me some Tylenol and about an hour and a half later, Jackie checked my temperature which had gone down to a measly 102.1 degrees.

I'm still not feeling well. I'm coughing all the time. And I think the fever has come back, but I'm healthy enough to have to work...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One dark night on the Kansas Turnpike...

On December 29th, 2005, I found myself driving back to Austin from my hometown of La Crescent, Minnesota. I left at about a quarter of 11:00 and fought through about 90 miles of dense fog at 40 miles an hour. I followed up the fog with a stop at the Taco John's in the truck stop on I-35 in Clear Lake, Iowa, where I bought enough Potato Ole's to kill a medium-sized goat. I pushed on through Iowa and Missouri, took a small detour to the Taco John's on Kansas Avenue in Bonner Springs, Kansas (where just one week earlier, I had called ahead from just outside of Gardner and bribed the workers to stay open until I got there), and meandered my way back to I-35 through Bonner Springs and Olathe.

As I was passing through Emporia, about to get on the limited exit Kansas Turnpike, I felt a rumblin' in my stomach. Not to be deterred from pressing on through the night, I kept on driving. No looking back. Well, about ten miles past Emporia--and twenty miles to the next oasis--my bowels let forth a mighty roar. A roar so strong that a sizeable chunk of refuse came jumping out when the door was opened.

Sitting behind the wheel, unable to move for fear of the feces soaking its way through my boxers into the pair of pants that I would no doubt be free-balling in shortly, I remained frozen but for my arms directing the car to stay between the line and the concrete median.

Now, if you've ever taken the Kansas Turnpike south from Emporia towards Wichita, you know that it is separated almost entirely by a three-foot concrete median which prohibits police from turning around and there's very little traffic on that stretch of highway anyway, so if you come across a vehicle with suspect headlights, you can slow down pretty easily. Needless to say, I averaged about 100 miles an hour while hurtling towards the next oasis, slowing only a few times for fear of getting pulled over.

As I pulled off the highway into the parking lot, I scanned for the closest spot to the door between the McDonald's and the gas station on each side, knowing that the bathrooms lay just within that door from having been there a few times.

I opened the car door and got out gingerly, making sure to squeeze my cheeks so as to prevent any unwanted movement of the package I was about to specially deliver.

Duckwalking into the bathroom, I rushed into the nearest stall without neighbors on either side, unbuckled my belt, and--leaning ass over the toilet--took my pants down carefully.

As I looked down, assaying the damage done by my bowel's insubordination, I was shocked to find that there was nothing there. Quizically, I kept examining my pants, sure that there was something I had missed. I stood up; checked the toilet. Nothing there. Looked around the floor near the base of the toilet. Still nothing. Shook out my pant legs. Nothing.

I took care of business, drew my pants back up, gathered my druthers, and went back into the world, having not actually shit myself.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Revised Perceptions

Last weekend, I watched the Scott Bakula star vehicle Necessary Roughness, and it got me thinking about how different style and fashion can influence who we find attractive. Kathy Ireland, whose acting left just a bit to be desired, was (I think) considered to be a sex symbol at the time--she was all over the SI swimsuit issues--but watching that film made me wonder why. She seemed astonishingly plain for someone who was put on that mantle of sexual appeal.

What brings me back to this revision of sex appeal once style (?) has moved on is my having tivoed Weird Science last night. Kelly LeBrock stands the test of time.
Stylistically, she embodies the '80s every bit as much as Kathy Ireland embodied the early 1990s, but she is still stunning.

This all brings me to wonder who else will remain every bit the symbol I remember them to be? Who will make me wonder what I was thinking (a la my trip down memory lane with Short Circuit a couple months ago, which made me wonder if my parents were putting LSD in my cereal when I was a child)?


Now for those of you who've been here before, you may have noticed that the image on the header has changed back to the original header, the poster from the seminal Burt Reynolds vehicle, Heat.

Don't take this as a slight to Rambo. In fact, I went to Rambo again today, and it was still fucking outstanding. Limbs were a-flyin'.

Here's another primer, just for fun...

As for Heat, if you haven't seen it, do yourself a big favor and rent it. Nay, buy it. As Nick 'Mex' Escalante, Burt Reynolds plays a man who can incapacitate you with a medallion, slice your face open with a credit card, or make friends with you, if you're Peter MacNicol. It was supposed to be the project that he and Altman finally did together, but things didn't work out that way. The resulting film is not an Altman film, but Burt is awesome in the his darker 1980's way. Check Heat out and Sharky's Machine, too, which has a sweet-ass soundtrack and is a film by the man himself.

As for Stallone, MGM has cut a two-picture deal with Sly, first one apparently being his remake of The Mechanic that I spoke of a few posts ago. Apparently, they're looking at Ryan Gosling, among others to play the protege, and if IMDB is correct, it sounds like it may be a drastic reimagining of the film. Again, I just hope they keep the bizarre handball scene.

Now, while I'm here, I'd like to posit a question: Since the writer's strike seems to be coming to an end, what will come of Friday Night Lights? I'm a couple of episodes behind, but I can't imagine the season story arc is complete. From everything I've read (which I'll not bother tracking down to link up for y'all), the show has been doing respectably, ratings-wise, although the jackass running the show at NBC apparently cares little for the show, since when he's asked about the show he asks people to watch 30 Rock. As usual for FNL fans, its fate would appear to be up in the air. I, for one, am holding out hope the Dillon Panthers' season gets to come to its natural end.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday?

There are a few things I find curious about the primaries and caucuses (cauci?) today.

First, why does CNN refuse to start breaking down California by Congressional Districts or counties? It is really quite irksome.

Do you think Lou Dobbs asks his hair colorist to give him a Redford?

Obama won quite a few states (more than Hillary). Hillary won the seemingly integral California Primary, but who knows how many delegates she'll actually win the state by...

It looks to me like Obama may have pulled off the comeback in Missouri. If so, hoorah.

It's 11:45 CST or so, and we're finally getting California by counties.

John King really has some troubles on that stretchy map touch screen.

During the Obama speech tonight, was it just the people in the room I was watching with, or was that blonde over Obama's right shoulder scary as shit? Her eyes were those of a psychopath. I was afraid for Obama's life, and I'm sure the Secret Service was, too.

I think Obama's showing in the caucuses in relation to the primaries is indicative of his support. In a setting in which people talk about the candidate they're backing (the caucus, obviously), Obama is shellacking Hillary. It seems like he won every caucus with just about 60% of the vote. I really think that speaks to the fervent support behind him compared to the tepid support behind her.

I really hope Barack can pull it off. He has the ability to raise quite a bit of money. He may be best served by not debating Hillary and letting his money-raising speak for him. Granted, I think he fares very well in debate with anyone, but why give her the additional exposure when you don't have to?

Finally, I am really concerned about Hillary's electability, but Obama certainly has his issues with Latino voters by the looks of it. At least it looks like McCain is the heavy favorite for the Republican nomination, and he's certainly the lesser evil of the three legitimate Republicans left.

What's up with Carl Bernstein's lips?
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