Saturday, January 31, 2009

Musicalia: The Swell Season on "Austin City Limits"

Watching the latest airing of "Austin City Limits" fills me with regret, as I had really hoped to see The Swell Season when they were in Austin over the ACL Festival weekend. This was the first ACL in ages that I'd not attended, but the lineup wasn't that great, and aside from The Swell Season and Beck, I had already seen all of the acts playing that I wanted to see.

But The Swell Season... The Swell Season I had not seen.

Seeing them on Austin City Limits makes me upset that I was unable to procure tickets for their sold out show at the Paramount Theater (or better yet for the taping itself). Their renditions of songs from Once and new songs like, "Low Rising", make me all the more wistful.

Having seen Glen Hansard with The Frames (who still comprise the band), I know exactly what I've missed in a Glen Hansard-led show.

This Austin City Limits recording makes me want more.

P.S. Why are you not in HD on DirecTV, KLRU. I know the show is taped in HD. Not cool.

A Man for All Seasons: Rudd 'n D.T.

In honor of Derrick Thomas, here is a clip of the world's most famous Chiefs fan.

Congrats, #58.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tube Steak: Reasons I Dislike "Battlestar Galactica" - Part Four

The Denigration of the Eye-Patch

If the film resume of Kurt Russell has taught me anything, it is that the eye-patch is to be reserved for only the most extreme of badasses.

Exhibit A:
Snake Plissken
This is one of the biggest badasses in the history of man

Exhibit B:
Captain Ron
Did you see the shit he pulled off in Cuba?

It was the work of the eye-patched Kurt Russell that caused kids the world over to wish that they would lose an eye.

Exhibit C:
Then the creators of "Battlestar Galactica" decide that they are going to sully what filmmakers have been using the likes of Kurt Russell to create: the image of the eye-patch as a sign of toughness. Kurt Russell teamed with men like John Carpenter to the reverse the fortune for those afflicted by a disability, cyclopia. Kurt Russell and John Carpenter worked painstakingly hard toward the cause of lionizing the uniocular, only to have these fuckers bastardize their work by wasting the eye-patch on this guy:
And to make matters worse, they have gone away from the piratically inspired eye-patch that we have come to love, to respect, to revere. They have short-changed the one-eyed by fashioning an eye-patch from band-aidian materials, universally dicking over the eye-patch adorned world over with this:
And he's just a curmudgeonly old fuck. You can't like him. He's a liar. And a Cylon. And just not cool. People (or robots) who wear eye-patches are supposed to be cool goddammit. That guy is not cool by any stretch of the imagination, and that is bullshit.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rediscovering the Past: Cool Runnings

While watching Cool Runnings last night the ending was called into question as being too Hollywood. As much as I didn't want it to be true...

Doug E. Doug?...


New York Undercover?...


You hurt my feelings. You betrayed my trust. You DID NOT carry that sled to the finish line. You lied to me.

Moreover, none of the characters were real. What the fuck Walt Disney? Goddamn you. Goddamn you to Hell, you purveyors of falsehoods.


So this all means there was no Yul Brenner, and there was no Sanka Coffie.

My life is ruined.



Does this mean that those swimmers in Pride weren't real?

Oh, shit. Wait. Was Rocky Balboa not real, too?

My life as I knew it is over.

Man on Film: The Wrestler Redux

As I sit here listening to Working on a Dream for probably the seventh time in the past two days, it occurred to me that I had not written a review/reflection* on The Wrestler. Well, that's not entirely true. In fact, that is not even remotely true. Unfortunately, the slipshod, mailed in manner in which I wrote the initial review of The Wrestler was so lacking that I actually forgot I had done one until I went back and checked my blog. So without further ado, I shall enter a second installment into the annals of the internet; one which does more justice to the film than my initial try. If you have not seen the movie yet, you may not want to proceed past this point as there will be talk about plot points to the point of there being some fairly significant spoilers. You have been warned.

*I'm sure I've said this here before, but I hesitate to call what I'm doing here reviewing for a few reasons. Chiefly, I do want to err from reviewing films, per se, in this space. While there are certainly reactions to, ruminations on, and reflections on films here at Inconsiderate Prick, review implies an act that I'm not sure I feel comfortable using here.

I have actually reviewed films in print in the past and can safely say that what I do here is different from what I did in that capacity. I have also written a fair amount of film criticism and written more than my share of film theory papers as a result of having minored in film theory and would also have to say that what I am doing here would not qualify as such without a liberal amount of stretching the definition of film criticism and theory.

I also tend to bristle against reviews of films, as the popular form of film review is one which has largely abandoned analysis of elements in filmmaking that are key to understanding and appreciating a film, opting for a simple critique of acting and narrative and crediting and disparaging those elements to the direction, for better or worse. So, while the film reviewer or critic more often than not leaves me wanting, I would prefer to not associate myself with that form (even though I assign each such entry with the "film reviews" tag, for lack of something more apropos or even more pretentious than this diatribe) and try to distance myself somewhat from reviewing a film and approach something more closely resembling a reaction/reflection.

Perhaps this return to the film has been spurred by the repeated listens to "The Wrestler", which so aptly evokes the character of Randy "The Ram" Robinson that it actually moves me. Few songs affect me to that extent, but if a song actually moves me to the extent that I have to revisit a film I saw two weeks ago, it certainly achieved its goal.

Maybe my return to the film was inspired by having heard Darren Aronofsky on Fresh Air Monday. His love for the character seems real. His respect for the medium--the line that it walks between artform and spectacle, sport and play, play-fighting and true pain--really came through upon having heard him speak of the sport and the research done for the film. Any doubt of the sincere passion he felt for not only the character he constructed but for the real wrestlers of years past and the lackluster place they have left for the place they once held was eliminated upon hearing him talk at length on the film.

What Aronofsky accomplishes on screen is truly amazing. In the opening credits, he lies the pinnacle of The Ram's career out for all to see--the years in which he rode atop the wrestling circuit, headlining events at the Madison Square Garden to sellout crowds. The success of Randy "The Ram" Robinson at what many would argue was the pinnacle of wrestling's popularity* is promptly put in the distant past as we are jarringly introduced to present day Ram, performing in high school gymnasiums and VFWs for chump change in front of tiny crowds of the unipeds and the downtrodden, seeking out their own escape from their own forgotten lives.

*Sure, wrestling enjoyed a resurgence in the late '90s-early '00s, but with the exception of The Rock none of those wrestlers transcended the sport and captured imaginations like Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair or Andre the Giant or Rowdy Roddy Piper did.

And while you instantly feel sorry for this man who has to subject himself to such a pitiable set of circumstances, attempting to revisit and recapture the gloried acts of his prime to ever dwindling crowds of spectators while his body struggles not to perform the acts but to merely continue on, Aronofsky imbues him with the flaws of every man. This is not a noble man who has lived a life free of transgressions. He abandoned his wife and daughter when he still mattered and wants back in his daughter's life largely because he feels alone. He is a man that, when given another chance, blows it nearly every time. You get the sense that he more than likely made the bed in which he lies. Regardless, he is a man who has been exploited to make money for others--much more money than you would imagine he could ever have seen. When The Ram's body has been used up, he is left alone to deal with the damage, while the parties complicit in and profiting from the abuse are nowhere to be seen. Despite his obviously self-absorbed and self-destructive path, Randy "The Ram" Robinson is a mostly likeable character who, on a certain level, seems like a person with a good heart even though he never managed to put together a life that included much more than himself.

And, upon trying to right the wrongs of his past, he is justly spurned by his daughter after falling into old ways and forgetting about plans he made with her. When trying to reach out to the equally-aged-for-her-field Cassidey, his initial attempts are rebuffed. When she finally does come around, he has already determined the path he must take. His body has been used up, all the spare beats in his heart have been spent, and if he is going to go out, he is going to go out with the people who love him, even if that love is only for those few briefs moments in the ring where he is king.

And goddammit, when he jumps off of that top rope, and the screen goes to black with just the cheer of the crowd which slowly shifts into the should-be Oscar-winning Best Original Song, Aronofsky punches his audience square in the gut. "Tell me friend can you ask for anything more?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tube Steak: Reasons I Dislike "Battlestar Galactica" -- Part Three

Sorry for the delay in coming back to you with another installment in this heavily read and much demanded series. In the first two installments I railed on the use of the word 'frak' and the disingenuous use of sex as a selling point. Of the myriad qualms I have with this show, first and foremost after those two items is the atrocious acting of model Tricia Helfer. Now, outside of EJO, none of the acting in this series as above reproach. I take great issue with nearly every putrid word that pours forth from the mouths of these basic cable* actors, but the "acting" of one Tricia Helfer deserves its own post.

*And basic cable in this case is more a reference to the 1990s way of thinking about basic cable television. The "Silk Stalkings"/"Weird Science" ilk is what I'm referring to here. Think Rob Estes. Think Vanessa Angel. I recognize that cable television is now more viable than network television in terms of finding legitimate prime-time programming of a high enough quality to warrant actually spending your valuable time watching it. If anything, that actually pisses me off more insofar as this dreck-fest "BSG".

After eleven years of professional modeling, she took to acting and unfurled her horribly breathy schtick on the world. Clearly, she impressed the producers and casting director for "Battlestar Galactica" with her star turn as a guest star in an episode of "CSI: Not the One with Horatio Caine" and her showstopping performance as the fifth-billed actor in the much-lauded independent film White Rush, which is currently sitting at a rock-solid 4.9 user rating on IMDB. Based on this body of work, they cast Tricia Helfer to play sexy cylon and rest much of the viability of the show on the shoulders of someone with the necessary chops.

Fucking brilliant.



So now, when that special someone is watching "BSG", I get to suffer through Ms. Helfer's imitation of acting. Her facial twitching as she sputters out every preposterous line in her permanent fuck me whisper. Her facial twitching that leads me to belief that she might actually have Tourette's or some other condition that could explain a facial tic while I pray for a Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf-ian cursing fit to slip by the censors who must be as bored as I am. Her involuntary eye-widening followed by eye-narrowing that is supposed to be sexy but fails miserably and is simply distracting and off-putting. These things are causing me actual physical and psychic pain.

This isn't even hitting on the sad attempts at luring virginal fanboys into her web of lies and deceit which I already discussed at length. If they actually knew what a woman's touch felt like or how women acted, this would not be effective. Yet in the winter of 2007, these young (and not-so-young) men were mustering up the courage to ask the clerk at the convenience store to reach a little behind them to their left and toss in that magazine in the black plastic to the one-liter of Mountain Dew, the $3.59 bag of Cooler Ranch Doritos, and the Almond Joy that they just plopped down on the counter as a weak ploy to excuse the fact that the only reason they went in there in the first place was to buy the only issue of Playboy they have ever glimpsed (but only because Summer Glau and Gillian Anderson haven't posed) in their lives just so that they can finally see what those goddamn cameras won't let them.

And if you ask me, that career move was more than encouraged by the show's producers because from the onset they've been peddling pseudo-soft-core space smut to unwitting virgins who cannot see that they're being used, and the saddest part is that they're being played by one of the worst actresses in the world--one who defines acting by fucking around with her eyes as much as possible and breathing on whoever is close to her.

Fuck this show.

Musicalia: Wait, Bruce Who?

All right, just to forewarn you, there will be an inordinate amount of Bruce Springsteen posts coming down the pike. This is merely the first of many. Well, not the first. I have written about him before, including a travelogue of sorts last spring when Chad, Mark, and I went to see him in Dallas. If you are interested, it is here (be forewarned, there will be references to defecation in that post, but if that scares you off, you should probably avoid this site).

Now, that was my first time seeing The Boss, which means I had my mind fucking blown. Amazing. Walking out, I just wanted to see him again. That's cool, because if things go according to plan, I will get to see him again. On April 5th. And I can probably walk there if I'm feeling particularly pumped.

So you'll not be hearing long-winded accounts of defecating in disturbingly black bathrooms or feeling sorry for the gayest kid in Hillsboro, Texas. No, Bruce Springsteen is coming to town on the Working on a Dream tour.

And Mr. Springsteen, if you're reading this and need a place to stay, there's room at my house. I would totally hang out with you if you asked.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tube Steak: "Saxondale" Series One

Coogan's post-Alan Partridge series is pretty rock solid. He's carved out a pretty great character, as the once somewhat cool Tommy Saxondale--a former roadie for many of the great 70s and 80s rock bands who has settled rather uncomfortably (each episode starts with him hijacking an anger-management class) into a more suburban lifestyle as an pest-control guy, who is smarter than he appears but is unable to relate to his suburban brethren. The awkwardness (latent in most British comedy) arises generally in a few ways: Tommy's compulsive verbosity, eventually placing his foot in his mouth; Tommy's unexpected worldliness falling on deaf ears as his clients tend to be either a) not interested in hearing the philosophical waxings of their exterminator, or b) completely ignorant of what he is expounding upon ad nauseum; Tommy's sexual piccadilloes or embarrassing physical conditions being exposed. When any of these things happen, he has to hold back his anger, which queers out everyone around him.

Random notes on the series to follow:
  • I like how the actress who plays Tina (Sarah Hadland) in episode five has played essentially the same role in two things I've seen her in recently--she was also in The Dinner Party episode of "The IT Crowd"--the over-sexed thirty(possibly-forty)something.
  • Vicky's cattiness and the ensuing twitching fits it sends Tommy into is hilarious.
  • The semi-goth squatter Coogan plays is brilliant
There'll probably be more on this later on down the line, but Coogan (Steve, not Keith) is aces in my book.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tube Steak: "Snuff Box"

I just saw the entire run of "Snuff Box" this evening. What a weird trip that was...

For the most part it was pretty great. It definitely crossed over into the realm of super-lewd at times, which is all right by me. Its continuing story lines are sometimes curiously woven together, which can make it slightly head-scratching, but for the most part it is pretty goddamn funny, even if it does veer into the absurdly weird like this:

Or the absolutely righteous, like this:

And Matt Berry wrote all the music for the show, too, which is a good thing if you loved "One Track Lover" as much as I did. He and Rich Fulcher play off one another well, with Fulcher playing the irritating American to a 't'. All in all, very funny and something you should get your hands on.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Man on Film: What?

I think it's only appropriate that for my 300th post on this blog, I bring news of Sylvester Stallone. After all, for months, this blog was loaded with Rambo content. Upon the release of the film, that dedication was rewarded handsomely by the most brazenly badass movie in the history of time.

Sly is about to start shooting his next project, The Expendables, and this is what he looks like right now (thanks to AICN for posting this picture):

Holy fuck.

The dude is 62. I'm totally serious. 62.

And because I had to...

Tube Steak: January Returns and Fuck "Lost"

Thankfully that month long no man's land that is the last two weeks of December and first two weeks of January has passed. Gone are three repeats of "Bones" a week--not that I have anything against David Boreanaz or the lesser Deschanel sister--and back in glorious Hi-Def are "Flight of the Conchords", "Psych", "24", "House, M.D.", and "Burn Notice".

Unfortunately for anyone with testicles, Showtime has rolled over into its estrogen-fueled, "The L Word" and friends slate of programming, so there is little drawing me to the "This Isn't TV Either, Guys--Seriously" net. HBO is still just coming on with two shows, with the obvious pairing of "Big Love"--which I lost a taste for by the end of the first season and have not gone back to--and "Flight of the Conchords". Soon a new project will join them on Sundays, set to premiere in February, straight from the minds of Danny McBride, Jody Hill, and Ben Best with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay serving as executive producers. It is called "Eastbound & Down" and follows the return of a flamed out Major Leaguer who returns to his hometown to teach middle school gym.

The "Flight of the Conchords" season premiere was solid, but not great. The presence of Greg Proops did not help its cause.

USA's programming not geared towards our grandmothers has returned. "Psych"--irritating music notwithstanding--has returned. If nothing else, it allows the world to see what Charlie did after working in "The West Wing". I don't think any of us guessed he'd become a pharmaceutical rep/sidekick to a fake psychic investigator or that Winston from Ghostbusters and Claire Huxtable were his parents*. While "Psych" is good fun, "Burn Notice" fucking rules. I've said it once and I'll say it again, "Burn Notice" takes all of the good elements of "MacGyver" and imbues it with the charm and wit of "The Rockford Files" but strings the viewer along with the season-long story arc that keeps you tuning in like "Veronica Mars" did at its best.

*And don't think I haven't forgotten that Charlie Young's mom was a D.C. cop who was killed in the line of duty. Oh, yes, I remembered. But there's his mom. On the TV. What the fuck, Charlie, was it all a lie?

"24" is back, apparently. I forgot to TiVo the first four hours, so I'll have to try to catch that online soon before my memory runs out. And now "24" has my favorite ornery doctor as its lead-in, which can't do anything but help its numbers. I hope that by the time I get around to catching up on this season of the Jack Bauer Power Hour the new setting has put me at ease and infused the show with a much needed change of energy.

Now, while I was waiting impatiently for all of these programs to make their returns, I got antsy for something to watch. For Christmas a year ago, my brother and sister bought me seasons two and three of "The [American] Office". I'd seen the first three episodes when they originally aired and, frankly, hated them at least as much as I loved its British counterpart. So the DVDs sat on my shelf for a year, but when I had nothing better to do and had finally finished the first two seasons of "Moonlighting", much to the little lady's delight (menu music), I decided I'd throw in "The Office" for a spin. I watched seasons two, three, and four over the course of about eight days and caught up with this season online over another couple of days. You can judge me reaction to the show's own direction by the voracity with which I devoured it. Needless to say, I was wrong to write it off so summarily.

The past week has seen me rewatch the all-too-short run of "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace" and complete my viewing of the entire run of "The IT Crowd". If one thing has been made clear, it is that Matt Berry is a gifted comedic actor with few, if any, in his class. Now, I'm on to "Saxondale". Through four episodes, it's been pretty great.

And to close: "Lost" can go fuck itself. There will never be a time in which I can go back to trying to watch that mess of a show. You can only piss me off so many times by accomplishing little while having spent all of the promise you once possessed before I give up on you. Take notes, people. You could be in my doghouse like "Lost" has been since about the seventh episode of season three where I decided I was done being upset by a shows aimlessness. I'll be glad when you're off the air "Lost". You're dead to me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Real World: A New Day

Today begins a new day, with the Son about to rise on the steps of the Capitol. Hope abounds as people be gettin' inaugured.

Apparently, we're now in a post-racial society, or so some at CNN would venture to hint towards.

The National Mall is packed. Millions watch in D.C.

John Cusack gets interviewed. Ben Affleck was apparently going to camp out.

I am really excited, or as semi-defunct blogger Peter Johanson kept exclaiming Sunday, "I've got inauguration fever!" Come get some. Unfortunately, I do not have time (and, arguably, skill) to wax poetical.

Tube Steak: Encouraging News

So apparently "Friday Night Lights" premiered with encouraging numbers. This is somewhat shocking because the entire season has already played on DirecTV's TV101 as part of their split-production-cost deal they cut with NBC Universal. Obviously, not everyone has DirecTV as their cable/satellite provider, but it was expected to cut into the potential ratings of the show, yet it was 300,000 viewers from second place in its time slot, and its viewership is not exactly the kind that is in the house on Friday nights.

I did see almost this whole season (shit got messed up with the DVR) and it was pretty good, relative shortness notwithstanding.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Man on Film: Hilarious Crying, etc.

Obviously, Forgetting Sarah Marshall relies far more upon awkward moments for its comedy than most American-made fare, but I'm not sure I've laughed as much at one character's tears than I have at Peter's tears. Perhaps, the most hilarious non-nude crying laughing I derive is from the scene in which Peter breaks into a sobbing fit while playing the theme from "The Muppet Show". Fucking hilarious.

On an sort of unrelated note, I hope Paul Rudd is as happy as I am about the Scott Pioli hire.

I would also like to reiterate how hot Mila Kunis is in FSM which is weird because I never thought she was superhot in "That 70's Show" but now?... Maybe she just had to separate herself from the role by playing a serial killer to shed the burden of being associated with a character in a long-running series.

Someone somewhere is saying something about a "Veronica Mars" movie. That would be neat.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Man on Film: Gran Torino

I'm not sure I laughed harder while watching a film this past year (yes, I'm talking Oscar years, not calendar years) than I did while enjoying Gran Torino. I loved Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express, but I may have actually laughed more at Gran Torino. And I was not laughing at the film--I think--I was laughing with it. This may have been the most unexpected movie chocked full of hilarity that I could possibly have imagined.

Maybe it is my own curmudgeonly person or a deep-seeded desire to cross over the lines of political correctness at every turn, but I thought the tale of Walter Kowalski--a recently widower-ed veteran of the Korean War and retired Ford plant worker who simply goes through life being, well, hilariously insensitive to people of all backgrounds--was a laugh riot. And it wasn't only me. The entire theater was laughing their asses off. And yes, Clint Eastwood directed it.

Now exclaiming from a mountaintop that this film's strength is in its comedy may seem reductive, and I would hate to come across as dismissive of the other merits of the film. It does hit its dramatic marks. It is shot like an Eastwood film. It does have its typical Eastwood-directed-film ending.

The difference here is that the film actually works. His other films taking place in contemporary settings of late have not worked for me. I hated Mystic River. The shot that killed that film for me was the overhead crane shot of Sean Penn in the animal pit over his daughter's body. The sudden Linney Lady-MacBeth-turn in the coda was absolutely infuriating to me. There were so many tonal issues I had with Mystic River that I grew angry with its shortcomings. Million Dollar Baby was a ridiculous feel-good euthanasia movie that just didn't work well enough to get me to like it.

I loved Gran Torino, though, and I am not easily won over by directors who have wasted my time in the past. To say too much would be to give away much of a fairly simple plot. But a simple plot is not necessarily a bad thing, and this film is a late-life discovery of another world and about finding family in the most unlikely of places--and it is hilarious. Shockingly.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Man on Film: The Wrestler

If there is one thing Darren Aronofsky is capable of, it is leaving his audience in a worse state than they were when they walked into the theater. His methods may not always fire on all cylinders (see: The Fountain), but his films taking place in a contemporary setting have been engrossing even if they are not exceedingly re-watchable. I mean, I loved Requiem for a Dream, but I don't sit down to re-watch it annually. The Wrestler while still sharing rarefied air with Requiem comes as close as Aronofsky has come to making a re-watchable film.

For starters, Mickey Rourke is every bit as good as the myriad accolades his turn at Randy "The Ram" Robinson have said he is. To further add to them would be fairly redundant. It was "the role he was born to play". Evan Rachel Wood was serviceable, which is a compliment from me because hers was a better performance than I thought she was capable of. Her Oscar-nominated turn as Tracy Freeland in Thirteen was one of the most undeserved nominations in recent memory, right up there with anything Juno ended up getting nominated for. In The Wrestler, there was only one moment (in her last scene) where I grimaced at how she spat out a line. In the I-can't-believe-she's-still-this-hot department, Marisa Tomei is in the midst of a respectable comeback. No matter how Aronofsky and crew lit her, she looked pretty spectacular and her late-career commitment to showing off her fantastic body is definitely a positive cinematic development.

As for the film itself, aside from a brief moment towards the end of the film where I thought I was watching an unofficialy sequel to Untamed Heart in which Tomei's Caroline had become a stripper in New Jersey only to fall for another guy with a bad heart, it worked on nearly every level. As far as tales in which the protagonist is a flawed but sympathetic character used and discarded by a society that no longer has a place for him are concerned, this film had enough heart and humor to steer it away from being exceedingly depressing. To say much more, especially this early into its release would be too telling, so I'll stop here. It is certainly worth seeing, if only to have a context for this.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Diversions: Bacon

So the best cook I have ever met in my life just sent me an email that contained perhaps the greatest thing in the history of time. Now when I call him "the best cook I have ever met in my life", I do not want to be misunderstood. This is not some fey chef who sets his tiny little creations on a plate with three-quarters of the plate being open space.

No, this man does not fuck around when it comes to food.

Hell, the reason our friendship began was because he happened to be at the counter where I was working at the time--a place I shall never again mention in this blog--while I was talking about how Mark, Chad, and I had gotten drunk on untold pounds of bacon and brats fried in the bacon grease and then stuffed and wrapped in bacon the night before while watching Burt Reynolds films. This was a story that impressed him, which obviously means that this man is a man's man.

The meat he cooks is otherworldly. By otherworldly, I mean that he will salt-cure a pork shank for six days and then smoke it for six hours, and his prodigious gifts yield the most absurdly outstanding meaty goodness that to go back to other meat is a tragedy that knows no words. He candies bacon. He whips up stews that explode in your mouth, fill your stomach, yet do not do insane damage to your lower gastrointestinal tract. This man is a demigod.

So, the email I received today--after stopping by where he worked to pick up a bit of perhaps the best bacon I have ever had in my life--contained this link, followed by the apt line: best use of bacon ever.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rediscovering the Past: Hiding Out

In an effort to bring a sense of direction to the inherent ramble that any product of my mind is going to be hampered with, I am going to try to re-brand (or more precisely, brand) this something that more closely resembles thematic unity. This will mark the first such foray into the scary world of focus. In any entry bearing the first three words listed above, you can expect to find me delving--in the manner of a modern Christopher Columbus--into the realm of the previously discovered, as if it were new and exciting.

In this edition, the subject will be Hiding Out. For those of you not familiar with the film, it is the product of a better time. A time in which studios cast Jon Cryer in the lead in not one, but two films. That time was 1987.

Now, I feel I should clarify. I do not want that statement to be read as though I believe Jon Cryer should never have been cast as the lead in films. My beliefs stray as far from that assertion as you could imagine. I prefer Predator 2 to Predator for the precise reason that it is a Danny Glover star vehicle. I love Action Jackson because it stars the man studios decided was a supporting cast member in action films. The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up work in their own respects largely because the Jon Cryers of this generation were entrusted to star in films, not complement the "stars". Sadly, these films are much more the exception than the rule these days.

In 1987, though, things were different. Things were better. Studios were bolder. Jon Cryer was handed the reins to two films: Dudes and Hiding Out. To get an idea as to what that might mean here is a link to the trailer (embedding disabled by request... bastards) for Hiding Out.

As for the film, it is the story of a stockbroker, Andrew Morenski, who ends up knowing too much and is forced to testify against a mob boss. Luckily for the viewer, the mob tries to take him out, leading to Cryer's Andrew going into hiding in a small midwestern town with his cousin (the inimitable Keith Coogan) and posing as a high school student under the pseudonym, Maxwell Houser--lifted from a coffee can in the principal's office. Needless to say, this is a recipe for an awesome fucking movie.

While the story is pretty fucking sweet in the best way possible, there are a couple of weird things going on in the movie that are frankly disturbing.

First, in the film's opening Jon Cryer has a beard. It does not look, well, real. Once he goes on the run, he decides to ditch the beard and the stockbroker hair for an odd dye-job (if you didn't watch that trailer, this is where you'll want to so you can see it in motion) that creates a hair-do rivaling his coiffure as Ducky in Pretty in Pink.

Second, this twenty-something stockbroker, when hiding out, falls for a high school senior played by Annabeth Gish. Of course it is perfectly natural to need to insert a love interest for our hero, but someone decided that Hiding Out needed to become a platform through which the filmmakers could sell the acceptability of statutory rape to those fabled residents of Peoria. I'm not blaming Jon Cryer here. He's beyond reproach. These filmmakers, however, seem to have had a hidden agenda...

As perhaps the only good personal post-script I will ever have on this website, about three weeks after I watched Hiding Out I ran into Jon Cryer. Not being able to pass up the opportunity, the following exchange (paraphrased very slightly) took place:

me: So, I actually just watched Hiding Out a couple of weeks ago.
JC: Really? That's one I haven't thought about in a while. Was it on cable?
me: No. I rented it.
JC: Oh... Sorry.
me: No. It was fun. I mean I wasn't expecting Citizen Kane, but it was fun. I liked it.

Man on Film: Synechdoche, New York

Call me lazy, but I really don't know that I can actually write a review of this film.

Simply said, "Synecdoche" should be seen if only so that you can make your own judgment on the film.

I personally liked it, but by the end I was completely emotionally and mentally drained. I still don't feel like I have completely wrapped my head around it. I'm not entirely sure that five more viewings would change that.

It is completely unlike anything I can think of, and it's a helluva trip into the neurotically warped mind of Charlie Kaufman. But it is not an easy watch.

I did get the sense early on that upon having his first trauma to his head that the film might be going into a dream realm, but there was little to no evidence to support that by the end of the film past the growing sense of surreal neurosis that began to envelop the film.

I really think I am just not smart enough to decipher the film's meaning upon one viewing.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Man on Film: Valkyrie

While I could expound upon this film's inadequacies for hours, its lack of worth does not warrant such effort on my part.

First off, I was not excited about seeing this film. I did not want to see it. It was not my choice. I went because others wanted to see it to use a gift card. Maybe I was in the wrong frame of mind.

I do not think that is the case.

Past the art direction and production design, there was simply little to like about this film.

The average moviegoer probably knows how this film is going to end. Hitler commits suicide in his bunker in Berlin as Allied Forces close in. There is not a successful assassination by German officers. So if one is equipped with even the most basic knowledge of World War II, the film better be insanely entertaining/captivating/interesting for Valkyrie to actually work.

Guess what?

None of those things are the case. The attention to detail in establishing the period is there. What they forgot was a script that told a compelling tale with fleshed out and complex characters and a lead who was capable of acting. The only times Tom Cruise has been even remotely interesting was when he was essentially lampooning his own celebrity, like in Magnolia or this year's Tropic Thunder. In Valkyrie, we are treated to Tom Cruise in WWII in a German uniform. Barring voice-over German over the first 30 seconds of the film, this is Tom Cruise with his American accent acting alongside an almost entirely British cast. It could be worse, I suppose--we could have been subjected to Harrison Ford's K-19: The Widowmaker* Russian accent--but the under-estimation of the intelligence of the audience (which is at least inherent from the studio/production side of the equation) in films like this always strikes me as extremely lazy. Sure, Americans managed to elect George W. Bush twice, but are that many of them actually going to go out and see a movie portraying sympathetic Nazis anyway? Know your demographic, dicks. But back to the point, Cruise is leaden. His attempts at imbuing his character with intensity simply come across as lame. His delivery of his admittedly weak dialogue is wooden at best, inflected with little affective emotion. The actions of his character could even potentially be moving in the hands of a skilled actor, but Tom Cruise is not that.

Past Cruise's shortcomings, the film is still not good. The other actors are given little to work with. Kenneth Branagh, who I usually like, is underutilized to criminal lengths. Bill Nighy plays the heel to adequate effect but is still working from an underwritten standpoint. Tom Wilkinson is given little to work with and, honestly, at times it seems as though even he was mailing it in.

The only interesting aspect of the film past aesthetics is that of the relationship between General Fromm and his Aryan underling, and that is only because of the seemingly implied homosexual longing that his assistant has for him when Fromm is under arrest. The looks of longing are at least comical.

Clearly, I was not impressed with this film.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Welcome to 2009

We're only a couple weeks away from an entirely new era* for the United States of America. We're only a few weeks from a new Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band album. A little later, and there will be a new Jason Isbell album as well. The Wrestler will start opening wider. The actual good movies and not the lame pre-Christmas schmaltz will start coming out. "House" moves to Mondays. New episodes of "Flight of the Conchords" will soon begin airing. It will be increasingly difficult to avoid "The United States of Tara", which despite the involvement of John Corbett (who I like, and from what I've heard is a nice guy), looks insanely bad.

*I write enough about baseball that I reflexively capitalized 'era'. Huh.

Be prepared.
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