Friday, June 30, 2006

Brokeback Mountain (Movie Review)

One of these days, I'm going to review a movie I either really love... or terribly hate. But since I'm not paid to write reviews, I generally avoid films that I suspect I'll dislike. And there are only a handful I truly adore (see my profile for such a list).

I mention this because I seem to give everything a "so-so" review here. I'm usually irritated by certain aspects of a film, even when I find it to be otherwise enjoyable. Most of the movies I watch fall into this category, and only a few gems would ever warrant a rave review.

It likely comes as no surprise, then, that I found Brokeback Mountain (2005) to be a decent enough film. And by that I mean: it's certainly profound in that it provokes a mainstream audience to sympathize with something once taboo. It even goes beyond this, in fact, and does a darn good job depicting the various complications involved in a relationship that, given the time and place, was not only "taboo" — but outright forbidden.

Brokeback Mountain is an effective film insofar as it portrays all of the problems that arise when two men, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar (played by Jake Glyllenhal and Heath Ledger, respectively), are unable to actively pursue a healthy, romantic relationship. With the beginning action set in the mountains of Wyoming in the 1960s, both feel societal pressures to marry women and participate in the dynamic of so-called nuclear families.

And even though Twist tells Del Mar that a life together is possible, Del Mar refuses on the grounds that they'd be putting their lives at stake. They both attempt "normal" family lives, as a result, though both are ultimately miserable... save their rare moments together.

The film's efficacy goes beyond this. Rather than limit its focus to Twist and Del Mar's mutual bond, Brokeback likewise demonstrates how their respective wives (and children) are hurt not so much by the homosexual relationship itself... but by the simple fact that Twist and Del Mar do a terrible job hiding their resentment. Del Mar treats his wife poorly, and Twist marries a woman he can hardly stand (perhaps to keep from feeling guilty for his stray "adventures").

In these respects, I enjoyed the film immensely. But I resented some insinuations that seemed to crop up elsewhere. And, whether intended or not, I was unable to overlook their presence. From what we see in Brokeback Mountain, it appears that:

  • All unhappily married men are homosexuals
  • All men have homosexual tendencies
  • If a man isn't gay, a woman's nagging will make him so

Also, in terms of cinematography - which was so highly regarded circa this year's Academy Awards - I felt the Wyoming/Canadian scenery is the sort of visual poetry that writes itself. No fancy-pants camera guy needed. That's not to say the direction was a failure, however; I thought it helped pull the film through some moments of bad writing (as in, "I wish I could quit you!").

I also had issues with Glyllenhal's moustache, which I felt existed as another character altogether and should've been credited at the movie's end.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Even the most prolific of writers go through the occasional dry spell. Not to mention, those of us who also qualify as "verbose" sometimes won't even pen a thought, for fear of where it might lead (and for fear that we'll never find a way to make it end).

In other words: I've not had much to say lately. Or, at least, too much to say and not the foggiest idea how to begin. I watched Brokeback Mountain which I'll review someday soon... I think. I went on my lengthiest bike ride thus far this season (35 miles), and made the trek with a friend who recently moved back to town. Most others were inacessible the past few days, and I spent much of the resultant free time going on longer jogs and letting my mind wander out over the lake.

I wonder if I might be suffering from a "healthy" breed of writer's block... the sort that demands complicated emotions be summed up in 17 syllables, or not communicated at all. The sort that disallows the rants and diatribes once so inexorably woven into my past writing habits. The sort that brings a senseless tangent to a close before it ever has occasion to begin.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the most optimistic of people. But my cynicism is generally colored by a degree of humor. I'm acerbic, but otherwise playful — especially offline. But when I'm given the opportunity to channel my thoughts directly from my mind to the computer screen... terrible things can happen. The pessimist is likely to slip out with nary a joke (or silly haiku). So when I feel that old creature coming on, I type less. Once upon a time, these were the days where I wrote the most. I have volumes of terrible poetry and melodramatic prose to prove it.

Funny how things change. Funny how you can grow tired of hearing yourself complain. Tired of writing about that great unknown, crushed life ambitions, etc. And so, even as "new" life situations arise, there's something quintessentially cliche about the core of every experience.

Fatigue. Confusion. Disenchantment. Please. Not only have I been writing about these things since my preteens, but I've also grown enough to accept that we own the cause of these emotions. In other words: why dwell when you can counteract?

And so I say again: I've been spending these days going on longer jogs. And letting my mind wander out over the lake.

My hope now is that I'll find some way to rope in my thoughts; to line them up like aluminum cans resting a top fence posts... and then fire away.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XXV)

on jogging past a movie set
(or "i'm gonna be famous!")

if you see a girl
in a 'mind the gap' t-shirt
it's probably me

thoughts on jogging past the same funeral twice
(or "because i could not stop for death")

my funeral march
was a melancholy sprint
i run in circles
documentary of my everyday
(or "maybe i should start video blogging")

boys play soccer to
casanova's "cat faces"
seagulls ride short waves
every investor i know looks up to this guy
(and yet, even still...)

second richest man
gives his cash to charity
berkshire stock drops

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XXIV)

hello bird flu! goodbye protein.
(or "um, is it really sanitary to have those out on the street?")

a site to behold
is a shopping cart full of
freshly plucked chickens

i should've worn a tank on saturday
(or at least sunscreen)

oh how beautiful
this contrast of red on white
my cool farmer's tan
rhapsody of life lessons

not all open doors
lead to pretty, shiny things
best to leave some closed
between no doz and sleep, i'd prefer sleep

heart races quickly
bladder fills freakishly fast
miles run themselves

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XXIII)

snapshots from american history
(or, "a modern-day love poem")

how do i love thee
let me count the ways: one by
land, two if by sea

water, soap, paper towels & PEZ
(or "frustrations concerning automation")

ever notice how
auto dispensers often
don't auto dispense
walk on the left, stand on the right
(or "to those who stand still on escalators")

moving jetson stairs
should get you there faster not
render legs useless
shock & awe
(or "tales of massive distraction")

the best bushism
(they'll stand up when we stand down)
is one in reverse
shock & awe revisited

the best bushism
(they'll stand down when we stand down)
is one modified

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Diary of the Absurd
(or, "Getting to Know You")

"Ow! Why'd you poke me in the eye?!"

"They say the eyes are the window to the soul."


"Well... I wanted to touch your soul."

"But that hurt!"

(shrugging) "No one ever said it'd be easy."

Monday, June 19, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XXII)

verbal snapshots from a trip home

someone else made the bed i lie in
(or "could you please get a new mattress, at least"?)

death is a mattress
old and uncomfortable
marked by ancient sweat

things you notice when jogging rural indiana

baby ground hog eats
berries from a country road
(this is what i miss)
moms say the darndest things

one of my cousins
got hard wood in his bedroom
(she means his new floors)
my nephew is a marketing genius
(or "a four-year-old boy sings a johnny cash classic")

what a great name for
a barbeque restaurant:
the wing of fire

that looks like it hurt

busy state highway
or graveyard for white-tailed deer
every car's the judge

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Revolution Will Be... Delayed Due to Traffic

Most of the people I see look miserable. The old lady I passed yesterday on the sidewalk. The guy who waited on me at the grocery store. A vast majority of the heads turned downwards on the train.

Every day, I take the same route home. The commute sometimes goes unbelievably well. But most days, the 20 mile drive takes about 70-80 minutes... over two hours when things are really screwed up. I generally call friends (hands free) to pass the time, but for the most part I sit there in a daze. Some evenings, I can't really even recall the drive. I just know that it happens somewhere in-between the slamming of my car door post-work, and the routine of circling my block to find a parking space. But for that period in-between... for those 80 minutes where my hands are gripping the steering wheel... I'm just... there.

I manage to pay attention to the road without even realizing where I am. I hit the turn signal and turn left without thinking "this is where I turn." It all just... happens... and through the misery and sweat of a 90F commute in an un-air conditioned car, the only clear thoughts I have are hopeful wishes for things that won't materialize until I force them to.

Exceptions to this are those moments when I break out of the daze to "see" things around me:

  • Men holding up "Homeless Vet. Please Help." signs while limping through traffic
  • The man reading the Bard in paperback in front of a gas station just before a very busy exit
  • A business man stuffed into the trunk of a suspicious looking vehicle
  • Toddlers "running" down the sidewalk without their parents in sight
  • People in the cars next to me, yelling to no one with their windows rolled up (no doubt enjoying their air conditioning), gesturing to traffic
  • At least 3-4 vehicles daily who speed along the shoulder while the rest of us wait patiently
And, yes, I've seen countless fingers shoved up unwitting noses while I pass by, as amused as I am disgusted.

It goes without saying that I'm a bit of a people watcher. I do this at malls, at parks, at bars... during the angst-ridden commute that bookends my day.

And I repeat again: most of the people I see look miserable.

This realization is as much an insult directed towards me as it is my fellow commuters. My most humbling moments, for example, are those instances when I glance over and see another driver looking back at me, themselves observing the people around them. It's embarrassing when this happens... in part because awkward eye contact generally leads to nothing but humiliation; in part because I can't help but wonder what they were thinking about me before I turned to look at them.
  • Windows down in 95F weather when traffic isn't moving? Her A/C must be broken.
  • Man, she looks hot... and not in a good way.
  • Milk. Toilet paper. Eggs. Ointment. Milk. Toilet paper. Eggs. Ointment. M; TP; E; O. M-T-P-E-O, M-T-P-E-O.... B-I-N-G-O, and BINGO was his name-o!
And so on.

Point is, I don't want to be one of those people I see. But somedays — when I catch a glimpse of myself in my rearview window — I have no choice but to admit the irrefutable connection.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XXI)

on discovering my utter worthlessness while browsing myspace

we like the same things
but haven't spoken in years
is no one unique?

on realizing my preferred habitat while browsing myspace

i'll never live in
portland but am envious
of all those who do
to the indigent man reading shakespeare on a giant rock

you smiled watching
jammed cars trying to exit
i envied you then
to the flood victim looting a store while wearing a WWJD shirt

i'm not sure but i
bet he wouldn't steal that big
ceramic rabbit
happiness is hard to find
(or "try saying that in a fake french accent without giggling")

happiness is a
sham perpetuated by
greeting card giants
so this is what a brain cloud feels like
(or "you can learn a lot by watching joe vs. the volcano")

these lights sucks the life
out from under your eye lids
i sure miss recess

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Clear-Cut Case of Huh?!

I read this story on Friday, but only just found the time to discuss it. It's a bit dated now, unfortunately, but that doesn't make its contents any less disconcerting.

“'We did in fact see him alive,'” [Major General Bill] Caldwell said. 'He mumbled a little something but it was indistinguishable and it was very short.'”

A 'little something'? As in "Hey, have you guys seen my car keys?"

"'U.S. and Polish forces arrived intending to provide unspecified medical treatment...'"

If he was assumed dead, what was the treatment for?

“'[Zarqawi] attempted to sort of turn away off the stretcher, everybody reached to insert him back...'"

"Sort of turn away"?! Hey, by any chance did anyone use a gun to "insert him back"?

"[Caldwell said] an initial analysis of Zarqawi’s body was done but he was not certain it constituted a full autopsy."

So, um, what did it constitute? A college admission physical? A spray of "how the heck did you survive that, Damien?!" bullets?

“'[Zarqawi] obviously had some kind of visual recognition of who they were because he attempted to roll off the stretcher, as I am told, and get away, realizing it was U.S. military.'”

'Well, obviously. Like, um, totally duuuh...' I mean, who wouldn't be afraid of the U.S. military?
'Some kind of visual recognition' — now that sounds like an official analysis of the situation. Thanks, Colombo!

"Caldwell said another foreign-born militant was poised to take over the terror network’s operations."

No kidding, huh? So you mean the war isn't over? This reminds me of a story I once heard about fecal matter and a guy named "Sherlock." Incidentally, does the realization that there's always going to be someone new "taking over" make you think y'all might want to reconsider your goals and objectives?

"He said Egyptian-born Abu al-Masri would likely take the reins of al-Qaida in Iraq."

Let's call him "Abu-bu" for kicks. As in, "Do you need a Band-Aid for your Abu-bu?"

"The U.S. military had displayed images of the battered face of al-Zarqawi and reported that he was identified by fingerprints, tattoos and scars. But Caldwell said Friday that authorities made a visual identification of al-Zarqawi at the site of the airstrike."

OK. So was his face battered, or not? And when you're dealing with the #2 terrorist in the world, I'm not sure I want the story of his life or death to hinge on a "visual identification." Shesh. Even I've heard of decoys.

So that's my way of having fun with Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell and his "astute" analysis of the situation. Sadly, I think the Carmen Sandiago gumshoes could've done a better job.

And here's my beef with the media: when I first read that story on Friday, and then revisited it 20 minutes later to begin writing this piece, the story had already been altered. It initially included questions such as:

Why does Zarqawi's face look so purty if he just had two 500 pound bombs dropped on him? [Caldwell's answer in a nutshell: "we just don't know how an ordinary man could've survived a blast like that"] and

How long was he alive after the blast?
[Answer: "just a few minutes" and "he died shortly after the Polish medics arrived"... the story later changed to have him dying shortly after the U.S. military arrived... and then over this past weekend, we learned he was alive for some 50 minutes after the blast.]

These and other segments were deleted without explanation.

There's comes a time in every person's life when you've got to learn how to tell fact from fiction. As for myself: I'm tired of sorting through the rubbish.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XX)

the angry/city chronicles

living here is bad for my wheels
(and my blood pressure)

thanks, but i'd rather
not add any more dints to
my car at this time

i can't believe i shaved my legs for this

funny how a car
door slam wakes you from a trance
i want to leave now
every 10 minutes, a siren wails
(or "ok, so maybe this isn't the safest neighborhood")

either sound travels
better through a/c units
or crime here is up
on bike riding to an art festival
(or, "good ride, so-so art")

it's not that the art
was bad but that lines for the
restroom were so long

to the man, who keeps bringing me down
(or "who knew street cleaning started at 6 a.m.?!")

there's nothing quite like
a parking ticket to start
your monday off right
don't mind me and my pria bar
(or "work lunch just got a lot more boring")

no fridge or freezer
coupled with half-hour breaks
leads to lunch time blahs

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Break-Up (Movie Review)

The Break-Up (2006), broke "romantic comedy" box office records, and yet it continues to get remarkably poor reviews. I suspect this has something to do with the fact that, in a world of films like Serendipity (2001) and You've Got Mail (1998), this isn't your typical romantic comedy.

It doesn't rely on unrealistic plot devices or unusual circumstances to bring two people together. Rather, it's about two people who find each other under normal conditions, and lose each other as so many couples do.

There's shouting. There's tension. And, as with most failed relationships, there's an abundance of communication blunders.

And that, I think, is the movie's strongest point: without completely placing blame on the man (Vince Vaughn) or woman (Jennifer Aniston), The Break-Up shows how both parties are complicit in the downfall. Integral to this is an age-old inability for cross-gender communication. I think there's something to be said for how poorly men and women "talk" to each other. Women want men to instinctively know what they want; and men, no matter how obvious the signs, never quite get it. Seems everyone would be much better off if either

  1. They were always open and honest or
  2. They parted ways, and left procreation to petri dishes.
It is because of, rather than despite, this strong point that the average moviegoer has been disappointed by The Break-Up. It's more "real" than most romantic comedies, and isn't so much a "romance" at all. Rather, it's a film most men and women can relate to; as such, it doesn't offer the escape we typically seek in fiction — particularly fiction that sells itself as a romantic comedy.

In this respect the movie is a failure. But for curmudgeons like me, it's precisely what the "romantic" film industry needed — at long last, a movie that shows what happens after the credits roll at the end of the film. It's a disruption to our fantasies of "happily ever after."

It doesn't hurt that it's funny... Not uproarious. Not hilarious... But funny. Though, even some of the jokes carry with them a degree of tension that smacks of the everyday. In other words: think of all those awkward moments (off screen) where you want to laugh at someone/something, but can't. In other words the "comedy" aspect of this film, much like the "romance," is more typical of real life, rather than escapist cinema.

If you watch this movie expecting pretty things and fairytale romance, you'll be sorely disappointed. But if you're looking for a film that accurately captures the darker moments of "normal" male/female relationships, then give The Break-Up a try. You'll appreciate the sentiment, no matter how depressing the reality.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XIX)

i lived through 6/6/6 and all i got was this lousy haiku

brangelina named
their kid the new messiah
perhaps she's "the one"?

happy christmas, war is over
(or "a lesson in sarcasm")

with zarqawi dead
we'll finally have world peace
won't that be pretty!
modern day sisyphus
(to the woman who cleans our restrooms in the middle of a work day)

i can't help but feel
a tremendous sense of guilt
as you clean, i mess
my cat finds other people's secrets
(or "i'm not sure either of us should be touching that")

the former tenant
had a diaphragm installed
back in 96

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Life and Times of a Social Outcast (Part 2 of 2)

Take my work place, as another example. Among my many other responsibilities, I write up new employee biographies for our newsletter. 2 out of 3 females list shoe shopping, clothes shopping and/or shopping in general as a favored hobby.

Though I've had plenty of practice with these interviews, I never know what to say about that "hobby." The end result: I eagerly await their response to the next question, which I always hope will be something I can either relate to... or make an unoffensive joke about.

If I voluntarily go into a store, it's either REI, a used bookstore, an art store, or something comparable. And while I "like" new clothes well enough, I don't like the process it takes to acquire them. Shopping, in most instances, tires me. And I most definitely can't turn shopping into viable conversation.

But it doesn't stop there. If you think I'm up for political conversation, you should know I think as fondly of Democrats as I do Republicans (people generally assume I'm the former). I fall along different lines depending on the topic, and my school of thoughts and opinions generally pleases no one.

So I can't talk to you about shopping. And I can't talk to you about politics, unless you're one few people who doesn't explode whenever confronted with an opposing viewpoint (it's because of these people that I often — once again — don't say anything at all, aside from the occasional wisecrack).

At least we can go out and drink together... right? Get wicked trashed, forget our differences and socialize the night away?

Eh. Only if we go someplace that serves calorie-free alcohol that doesn't taste like... alcohol. There aren't many beers I enjoy, and though I like stuff like Mike's Lemonade and Twisted Smirnoff Ice, few bars around here carry it (I've even had some bartenders laugh when I ordered it). If I request they make a mixed "sissy drink" so people will stop staring when I sip my water, they charge $5-8 for whatever they make and, even if it tastes good, I can't help but think I could've purchased six Smirnoffs for about that price at the store.

To further my embarrassment, I don't want to consume the empty calories it takes to get wasted. My metabolism simply couldn't handle it, and though I secretly wish more places carried Bacardi Razz — which has almost zero calories — I also know that wouldn't make a huge difference because, at $5 a bottle, I'd rather spend my money at the movies.

[I should interject here that I'm capable of enjoying myself at pubs — so long as they're not too noisy and not too crowded — but my amusement is typically intermingled with a level as discomfort when people begin noticing I've had the same drink all night. I'm fine until I have to start fielding related questions.]

And so, like diamonds, politics and shopping... even in the most relaxed of public situations, I somehow emerge as a loner, a bore or an all-out nut. I stand out not because I choose to, but because I simply can't relate. I imagine many folks see me as being socially awkward as a result. Or, to quote a co-worker: "Everyone likes you, but they also all think you're strange."

There's a fine line between "boring" and "strange." And while I generally consider myself to be a hapless bore, I also realize that people who walk the line between "boring" and "strange" are just a hop, skip and a jump away from being social outcasts.

[Just in case you wondered about this post's title.]

The Life and Times of a Social Outcast (Part 1 of 2)

Diamond jewelry commercials have a decade-old history of sending me into a self-contained rage. I've long believed that money should be spent on experiences rather than material goods (unless, of course, said material goods open us up to new or improved experiences). There's something about expensive jewelry, in particular, that smacks of a movement in the opposite direction: a diamond bracelet doesn't make your daily commute more comfortable. You can't smell the fresh air at Bryce Canyon when you peer into it, and it certainly won't help you improve your tennis game.

I heard two diamond jewelry commercials during today's lunch-time quest. My brief trip was essentially book-ended by those commercials, both of which placed an inordinate amount of pressure on men to spend a lot of money on a single material item all the while playing on stereotypes that depict women as petty, money-mongering nags.

I take offense at this, for reasons described above, but also realize that many women (and men) do care about these things. Is it wrong of me to place judgement? To shake my head in pity or disgust?

Moments like these, I arrive at a recurring realization:

It's not them... it's me.

Just because I don't get it doesn't mean there isn't a huge audience out there that does. For many, in fact, an expensive piece of jewelry is

  1. Evidence that the guy is fiscally capable of being a good provider
  2. An indication of his level of commitment and
  3. Pretty and shiny
It's a status symbol of sorts and, as such, enhances feelings of self-worth for all involved parties. Beyond this, expensive jewelry is completely useless.

But this doesn't stop women from crowding around a newly engaged friend asking to "see the ring." This ritual has become a given in our society. It comes as no great surprise, then, that I have friends who care about this stuff. Co-workers who care about this stuff. Family members who care about this stuff.

So why is my outlook any more correct?

It probably isn't. What works for me doesn't necessarily work for other people, and I've long recognized that (not to mention, I think the world would be a much better place if people stopped forcing their ideology onto others).

But I'll save that rant for another time. What I was forced to confront again today is that I'm a bit of a sore thumb when it comes to social circles. I'm not interested in a lot of what interests other people. I seldom have anything to add to conversation, as a result, and so reserve my comments for the occasional joke or off-color remark.

And if you think that's a coping mechanism I developed in adulthood, it may interest you to know I was voted Class Clown in the fifth grade.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Botanic Faux Toes

This action-packed weekend wasn't without the occasional bump... or broken nose. But rather than dwell on unpleasantries, let's talk about shiny, happy things.

Take Saturday's bike ride, for example. Washington & I went to the Botanic Garden (my bladder was much obliged to the woman who told us about a short cut!). The weather was perfect for the ride, and the bike path was lined with cottonwood.

We also passed the occasional marsh.

The garden itself was great (I'd never been).

And our picnic lunch was highly nutritious!

Unfortunately, we only saw one-third of the park, 'cause we needed to meet people at 7... we did get to see (but not sow) some wild oats, at least...

...and we made time for a quick nap on a park bench.

When we returned to our bikes, they appeared to have gotten quite cozy together.

(My Trek, in fact, is currently filing a harassment suit against his Raleigh).

And our return trip, by some miracle, was without incident.

***I'm not certain, but I may have made up the word "unpleasantries."
***All photos were taken by me, with one exception: the black and white park bench is Washington's.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XVIII)

on the virtues of mixing booze with athletics
(or "if you see more than one softball, swing at all of them")

win or lose there's booze
before, during and after
it's better this way?

next time, please stop the car before we get to the park
(or, "times like these, i wouldn't mind being a boy")

there's nothing worse than
needing to use the bathroom
on a long bike ride

if we don't go back to that restaurant, the terrorists win
(or, "i noticed you didn't eat much of your food")

i think from now on
we should do take-out or perhaps
dine with our eyes closed

funny how people lose no matter where i go
(or, "on watching one of the best teams in the league lose badly")

their only two runs
happened before i arrived
someone do the math

Who the Alien Duck Baby Daddy?

If it's in National Geographic, you know it's true.

Friday, June 02, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand (Movie Review)

If I haven't already made this clear, allow me to reiterate: I have little patience for comic book movies. I resent how painfully obtuse the female love interests are (a la Superman and Spiderman), and — as with science fiction in general — I feel it takes a keen level of skill to first write, and then execute, a compelling storyline. I.e. something that allows you to suspend disbelief without rolling your eyes.

Or, to give you a point of comparison:

Bad Comic Book Movie: Unbreakable (2000)
Good Comic Book Movie: V for Vendetta (2006)

Bad Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie: Serenity (2005)
Good Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie(s): Lord of the Rings

Out of fear that X-Men would qualify as "bad" science fiction, I avoided the series until a preview for The Last Stand (2006) piqued my interest. I saw (and enjoyed) the first installment over the weekend, and then caught the newest theatrical release (Part III) last night (hopefully I'll fill in that Part II gap soon).

At the risk of sounding like a broken record stuck on lukewarm reviews, I can't help but repeat once again that I was neither enthralled nor appalled by this film. I liked it. I was entertained. But it wasn't as complex as I had hoped.

Which isn't to say it isn't without the occasional exploration of the human (or mutant) psyche... just that those insights were typically surface level.

Set somewhere in the near future, the X-Men series (based on a long-running Marvel comic) chronicles the life and times of the next step in human evolution. This "step" (or "genetic mutation") evidences itself as a particular power or trait (some mutants even have multiple powers, as in the uncontrollable schizoid, Phoenix). Some mutants look normal enough; others develop features (abnormally large muscles; wings; quills; blue, snake-like skin, etc.) associated with their power.

As you might suspect, those who don't have the mutant gene (your average, run-of-the-mill humans) are a tad worried about what the mutants will do to them. Some want to find ways to assimilate mutants into normal life, but the more vocal parties want them exterminated and/or "cured."

And it's the latter that serves as the inciting action for The Last Stand. A "cure" has been found, and while some closet mutants are quick to take the cure, most are pretty upset that the U.S. Government thinks of them as a disease. In the mutant community, there are three forms of response:

1. The powerful Magneto (Ian McKellen) is still (understandably) upset by how he was treated as a Jewish adolescent in a Nazi concentration camp, and so is particularly upset to have his mutation be perceived as anything other than evolutionary progress. He rounds up his underground gang of mutant thugs to start a war against the humans.

2. The resourceful Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) presses for talks and integration. Himself a mutant with telekinetic powers, he founded a school for mutant children and is, by all intents and purposes, the sensei of the film. A former friend of Magneto, he still bears no ill-will towards this veritable adversary. He continues talks with Magneto, and despite their profoundly different ideologies, neither seems intent on hurting the other. Xavier employs the use of his own team (Xavier's Men or "X-Men"), most of them former students at his school. Names like Jean Gray, Wolverine, Cyclops and Storm primary among them.

3. Both Magneto and Xavier are outnumbered by undecided mutants... those who have neither taken sides, and those who may even want to take the cure so as to blend in with mainstream society.

This aspect of the film is the aforementioned surface-level complexity. X-Men certainly deals with control, conformity and individuality. Do we embrace others at the risk of our own extinction? Is conforming worth losing your identity? How human is fear of the unknown? Etc.

A dimension that I enjoyed even more involved Jean Grey/Phoenix. While Magneto and Xavier are both opposed to the cure and the level of government control it implies, Xavier himself is accused of trying to "control" Phoenix by limiting her powers. Which begs the question: what level of control is appropriate? If Xavier made the correct decision with Jean, does that mean mutantism really is a disease? Etc.

I also liked Kelsey Grammar as "The Beast," though I must admit to chuckling just about every time he made an appearance. As the Secretary of Mutant Affairs, it wasn't until one of the final scenes that I realized his super power (aside from looking like a big, blue version of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas) was anything more a keen eye for diplomatic relations. Turns out he's super strong, too!

Useful Info: Be on the lookout for an Easter Egg after the credits finish rolling.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XVII)

tips on using a public restroom at work
(part iv of a series)

toilet paper rolls
never seem to unravel
i tear piecemeal

how to tell he wasn't really paying attention
(life observations based on a quote from a government leader)

what a good comment
you just made about that thing
you just said right now
you don't have to be smart to say stupid things

some days you're the bug
some days you're the windshield of
useless metaphors
let's all be honest here
(or, "what doesn't need to be finished asap?")

how come whenever
i submit projects "sooner"
they're reviewed "later"?