Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Claus Film a Work of 'Art'

So long, Tim Allen. There's a new (old) St. Nick in town.

And he's packing Christmas cheer, ready to kick some serious martian derriere.

I'm referring of course to one of Hollywood's most under-appreciated holiday gems: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964).

The movie title basically speaks for itself. What more can a girl say about a film so terrible — so kitchy — that you simply cannot look away? By this hopelessly flawed design, Conquers is the sort of film that derives its "greatness" from the simple fact that it appears to be intentionally awful.

Or else the writer and director hoped to make a political statement by aligning the Martians with the Soviet Union (certainly there are faint parallels), and were otherwise terrible filmmakers. Either way, the final product was so awful, it's funny.

The word "sprezzatura" comes to mind, but then dissipates almost as quickly as it appears. That is to say, Conquers isn't so much an art house film replete with "careless grace" as it is a B Movie scattered with careless comedy.

So much so, in fact, that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend parents forego the newest addition to the Santa Clause epic and instead rent this one. I mean, this film is about the kidnapping of Santa Claus by a Martian commander who wants to bring "Christmas" to his own, hapless planet. What's not to love about that?

(Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, for the record, has one of the lowest ratings in IMDB history.)

I'm reminded of a trip I once took to the Museum of Bad Art. I had hoped that the artwork there would be so wretchedly awful, it'd be funny. But, ultimately, many of the pieces there were simply mediocre paintings that weren't so much "bad" as they were reminiscent of a community center art class. In other words, the art wasn't bad, per se... but I was certainly disappointed. I walked away realizing there's a difference between a Museum of Bad Art (this museum's name), and a Bad Museum of Art (what it actually was).

But if a true Museum of Bad Art existed — and they were looking for a video installation — I'd recommend Santa Claus Conquers the Martians without hesitation.

It's just that the film is so bad... it's good.

Addendum: After perusing the MOBA's new website, I've come to realize they've substantially upgraded (downgraded?) their collection. Might actually be worth a visit now, if you're ever in the area.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

These Walls Talk

So I'm sitting here at 11:20 p.m. listening to my neighbor's music when suddenly it hits me:

I'm ready to move.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Silly Borat, Tricks are for Kids

When I heard that two of the three frat boys seen in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) were suing the film's star (not to mention the production company), I scoffed.

I mean, sure, they embarrassed themselves on-screen by saying sexist and racist things. And, sure, they thought the "documentary" was going to air only in Kazakhstan.

But they said what they said, unscripted, and they knew they were being recorded. It's not comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's fault they cannot control their tongues (even if the production crew did, as they boys allege, ply them with alcohol). Mel Gibson wishes he could take it back, too, but at least he's not suing the police officers who reported his verbal backwoods shenanigans.

And then I heard about some Turkish guy who's suing Cohen for "stealing" his character. Turns out this guy might have a case: he started a (now defunct) website in 1999 called This personal website began as a legitimate homepage, but its creator quickly became an "online celebrity," when his broken English, silly pictures (him sunbathing, him playing ping pong) and pleas for American women to "come stay please at my home" earned him a cult following. He was sharp enough to pick up on this fact, and so played along with it... further transforming his site into a comedy of errors.

If he can prove Cohen stole his "character" as the inspiration of Borat, then he deserves to be compensated. Otherwise, I think Cohen could make the case that the accuser isn't the only man in the world with broken English and bad taste. Not to mention, it's a sad but true fact in the creative world that many of our best ideas are "stolen" (or, at least, independently developed by someone else, and then put to good use before we get the chance).

But this newest lawsuit. Well... this one bothers me a bit.

Turns out parts of this film that I assumed were staged were not entirely so.

And that includes the opening sequence, where "Borat" wanders around his Kazakh village, introducing his family and exposing the town's poverty for all the world to see.

Because of what happens in this scene, I imagined the people were "actors" being compensated for their trouble. Turns out they weren't actors at all, but rather a group of impoverished gypsies in the Romanian village of Glod. Apparently they were led to believe they were taking part in a documentary about poverty, and were paid between $3.30 and $5.50 to do demeaning things.

[Sure, you can argue that's more than they would've had — it's true, and that's precisely why they did what they did — they needed the money. But to see an entire village taken advantage of like that? It's disheartening.]

Is it wrong of me to see a difference between the drunken frat boys and the villagers who live without running water?

Granted, I realize compensating these villagers after-the-fact is a slippery slope of sorts: if Cohen were to pony up more cash, would he then have to equally compensate everyone else who appears in the film?

I imagine, legally, that's a difficult line to draw.

Cohen and company could've avoided all of this up front by being honest with the Romanians (in comparison to other scenes, these people weren't being caught "candid" on camera) and paying them more money (compensating them as "actors" rather than people merely making appearances). Granted, they may have still asked for more money after they realized what a huge success the film turned out to be, but at least that would have had less cause for recourse.

But this newest case infers these things weren't done. I'm waiting for more facts to come out, but if these allegations are true — and it appears as though they are — Cohen owes the people of Glod one enormous goodwill gesture.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Facts about Fiction

Since watching Stranger than Fiction (2006) this past Saturday, I've come to realize just how easy it is to review a film you either love or hate.

The hardest reviews to write are ones like this: films you enjoyed, but not as much as you'd hoped. Films that lure in the literary types with interesting plot twists, only to have a few kinks in the intellectual follow-through.

I mean, I liked this film. I really did. But where as the minds behind Adaptation (2002) — director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman — genuinely twisted my brain right in with that film's cute-but-complex plot, Stranger than Fiction requires a sort of suspension of disbelief that's a bit more difficult to swallow (I compare the two here because both films position "writing" at their core).

And, no, I did not expect to find the plot "realistic," per se. I had just hoped for a little more assistance along the trail to make believe.

But that's not to say this film isn't compelling. Quite the contrary: Stranger is about an IRS agent named Harold Crick (well-played by Will Ferrell in his least comedic role to date) who lives his day-to-day as so many folks do: he's caught in a routine that serves only to propel him further into a sort of quiet loneliness. Topsy turvy enters into his world, however, by way of a woman's voice.

He hears this voice from time to time throughout the day, and quickly realizes it's talking about him: the voice beautifully narrates his very movements; his thoughts; his hopes. Needless to say, this disturbs Crick... particularly when the voice forecasts his "imminent demise."

Crick makes it his purpose, then, to seek out the narrator in an attempt to spare his life from this omniscient thrashing.

I was amazed by how well Crick handled this voice, all things considered. He never seems to lose faith in himself, even after a psychologist offers up the expected "schizophrenia" diagnosis. In this respect, the film explores notions of comedy, tragedy, character and various other literary devices.

And for that, I enjoyed the film. I thought Ferrell was great, as were the other "big" names: Emma Thompson (the voice in his head), Queen Latifah (the voice's assistant), Dustin Hoffman (literary critic) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (renegade baker/tax evader), etc.

But no matter how much I want to give Stranger a smashing review, I keep coming back to this: something was missing. It was cute, with meaningful undertones. And I was initially drawn in with the allusion to literary theory, and it's exploration of comedy, tragedy and story-telling.

But I think that may very well be where it falters. It lacked the mind-bending that made Adaptation such a joy to watch, as well as the framework that made the town of Seahaven so believable in Jim Carrey's The Truman Show (1998).

You see what I mean? I have no problems suspending disbelief when there's no hint of reality; but when you intermingle the two, you've got to give the audience more foundation.

Previews for this film had me hoping I'd walk away with an altogether new apprecation for Ferrell, as I did for Carrey after Truman.

And though I wasn't salivating for Stranger than Fiction as I did for The Truman Show or even Adaptation, I've got to admit that I was a fan of Ferrell's work long before this film (I can't say the same for Carrey or Nicholas Cage — the star of Adaptation).

But will Stranger function as a transitional role for Ferrell? Now that he's done a "more serious" comedy — in comparion to the uproarious humor that marks Anchorman — does that mean we'll soon see him in grab-your-kleenex dramas?

I certainly think he's capable. But, man, if he hasn't found a niche...

Monday, November 13, 2006


The Setup: Two Catholic priests rise up from a nearby table, having just finished their lunch at the local bar and grill. Their presence spurred a conversation about Catholicism between a man (raised Catholic) and me (raised Protestant).

As the two priests walk away, one of them sneezes.

Man to Priest: Bless you.

[Exit Priests]


Me to Man: Wait a minute. Did you just bless a priest?

Man: Yes.

Me: Is that allowed?

Man: What do you mean?

Me: I mean, you just blessed a priest.

Man: Well, the other priest blessed him too.

Me: Exactly. So the blessing was pretty much taken care of by someone of equal status. [Stealing his Bloody Mary and biting into the celery.]

[Man, shrugging, taking back his Bloody Mary.]

Me: No, really. I'm curious. You were raised Catholic, so you'd know better than I. You told me once that only certain people were allowed to "bless" certain others — like only Cardinals and above can bless an entire crowd. So tell me... do you have the authority bless a Catholic priest?


OK, so I don't know where the conversation went from there, but I'm pretty sure my question went unanswered.

And while I initially asked the question to underscore the irony/comedy of an ordinary sinner blessing an ordained priest, I'm actually quite curious.

So... can any of you tell me? Can any plebeian bless a priest, or would doing so be against protocol?

Friday, November 10, 2006

OK, So Maybe I'm Simply the Worst

Recently, I gave some thought to submitting a few poems to a literary magazine. The deadline was (is) fast approaching, so I spent some time last weekend looking over some old stuff.

I subsequently decided against submitting. You'll see why once (if) you read the below. I've opted to post this one simply because it explores, in part, the same "window reflection" effect I discussed in a recent post.

Interesting to stumble across this old piece and revisit that same fascination, four years removed... even if is does substantiate my online moniker.

Modern Prometheus

Accursed progenitor!... Accursed fornicator! ~Hamm in Samuel Beckett's Endgame

Enter Boy
He slides the paper across the counter-top,
white smile against dark skin, eyes barely visible
over the ledge, his sketchings on one side,
imagined words on the other: shapes, notions, the
letter "A" scrawled like tree limbs with pink
highlighter; four wheels and a box, headlights
like tin cans, a piece of paper with three
perfect words beneath fluorescent waves

Please pray for ...

A page torn from a Sunday program.
Scrap paper
Ancient thoughts, new form
Unsteady hands, learning the
art of reproduction, symmetry, and reason.

Please pray for...

Recycled smiles

Hands that stretch into fists
Laughter like a dying wind;
Intelligence, consequence,
and spiritual cul-de-sacs

Watch the boy walk away
Smile stuttering into a sigh

Six feet in twelve years—
Hand dragging charcoals
across the canvas, mother
in tears, dark faces blurred
by excessive contemplation

Veins drawn, the pulsation,
the explosion that comes
with time, the gap between
then and now

that widens

experience a narrow bridge
with no bottom

like legs spread into
the cold horizon


In the beginning, all was
dark. And God said let there
be light, and there was light.

Today I flip the switch

watch you come and go,
reflections build in the glass
transparent until the ghosts

closer and closer

my own reflection growing
as you near

my creation,
in a stranger

unseeing anything
but the hills and then
you, with your hands and
your scowls and your grimaces
and your scents: the alcohol, the smoke,
the cologne

the fast food that bleeds into your

the human mind is a mystery
when we are first created

all is completion
when we are young

but we never stop to consider
any of these things

only the color of the sky and why, mother,
oh why...

you approach, closer and closer,
I see myself as you near
tuck the scrap into my book
and breathe in the smell of you,
nostrils flaring into the corner
of a stale grin

To Sum Up

Please pray for...

One reaches Nirvana by breaking
out of the cycle

Please pray for...

Wellbuturin for anxiety.
Celexa for depression.

(Take both for balance)

Please pray for...

In academia, one opens not a
can of worms but

pandora's box

Please pray for...

And on the first day, the world was a
satisfying yawn of affection

Please pray for...

And on the second, he pleaded with his
god, who rejected him,

Please pray for...

And on the third, a terrible emptiness rose
into the crux of his eyes

Exit Boy

His right hand arches across the canvas.
Beneath the flesh he battles
the monster of his own


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Prairie Takes Some Getting Used To

Prairie Home Companion (2006) was hard for me to get into. And whether it was just a slow start — or my general mood — it's only just now (four days after watching it) that I'm really starting to enjoy it.

I found the second half to be substantially more interesting, and more comical, than was the first. I think what was missing, for me, was a previous relationship with the Public Radio show of the same title.

Afterall, Prairie Home Companion, the movie, is a fictional story about the "final broadcast" of the popular radio variety show. I believe the radio show is actually alive and well and — though the movie borrows from the show's skits, guests and the like... Garrison Keillor — the "real" radio show's creator/star, and the writer of this movie — is the primary link between the radio show and the film.

It's for this reason that the film bears a sort of resemble to mockumentaries, though we're never once led to believe that the "characters" have any idea they're being filmed (which differs substantially from most mockumentaries). At one point one character — the man responsible for the show's cancellation — even notes that he "wishes" he'd thought to have the final show taped for posterity's sake.

The story goes a little like this: the (fictional) stars of the (real) radio show all gather for their last hurrah; their station has been purchased by a big company who's revamping everything, and cancelling the show. Backstage they're all clearly nervous about their lives post-PHC, and frankly a little sad to close this chapter of their lives. On stage, various performances (throw backs to performances on the actual radio show, I'm told) continue and various other "monkey wrenches" are thrown into the mix.

Death also makes an unusual appearance, and presents one of the more compelling aspects of the film (insofar as we get the feeling that — try as we might — there's no way to separate comedy from tragedy in that bittersweet circle of life).

In short, I found this "comedy" to be markedly depressing (but not in a way typical of most black comedies). And because it's also slow moving (as are most Altman films), I had a difficult time really enjoying myself. But, as I mentioned in this review's leading line... the more I think about Prairie Home Companion — and the more I write about it — the more I like it.

It's that sort of film. The sort that's somewhat touching; somewhat comical; somewhat insightful; somewhat depressing; and, yes, even a tad boring. It's a little of everything (go figure, it's based on a variety show), none of which struck me as being altogether interesting until long after I ejected the disk from my DVD player.

Truth is, I never quite know what to say about Robert Altman films. I always find them intellectually compelling on one level, and yet altogether boring on another. And, yes, I know. I should be ashamed of myself for dissing the much-reverred filmmaker.

But I can't help it. You're reading a review by the same girl who nearly boycotted the 2001 Oscars in protest of all those accolades heaped onto Altman's Gosford Park (a film that, again, I only enjoyed casually after-the-fact).

Oh, well. There's no question people like what he's doing. I guess, in a way, Altman is a little like the tortoise in that proverbial race with the hare: he keeps a slow, steady pace and yet somehow always comes out ahead in he end.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bacterial Election

Election day is here, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

And, no, it's not because this will be my first time voting in this state.

Nor is it because I'm one of millions out there hoping for a House flipping that will transform our Commander-in-Chief into a lame duck.

Rather, my excitement is powered more so by my desire to have those wretched advertisements (television and otherwise) put to a halt. The attack ads have been so vicious this year, I've found myself rolling my eyes to the tune of every political party. In short: with so much mud being slung around, even I feel dirty.

In many of the races here, voters only know of the candidates what their opponents have said. In which case, we're literally choosing the lesser of two evils because we haven't heard a single good thing about anyone.

For the first time in my life, I'm going to vote for the "little guys" who don't have a chance in at least two races, just to contest all of the negative energy I've had to endure at the hands of big money yarn spinners.

Does that mean the little guys wouldn't have turned up the productivity on the "NEGATIVE AD" machine if they had the money?

They probably would have. But at this point... I don't really care.

Here's what we're dealing with: the two "main" gubernatorial candidates both have very low approval ratings (think "President Bush" low). And yet the incumbent has a 14-point lead over his opponent.

He was asked what he thought about his low approval rating, and he said something to the effect of: "What do I have to be offended about? I'm ahead 14 points. And, to me, that's great news."

OK, sure. It's great news for you. And, yeah, you're likely that proverbial lesser of two evils. But don't you even care that we don't want you, either?

I'm so tired of that dude talking about all the "negative ads" his opponent put out when, in fact, he turned on the heat months ago. In other words: HE STARTED IT!

[Could you tell I was using my best "angry young kid fighting with sibling" voice? Because I was.]

At one point last week, I saw my very first (and only) "THIS AD IS ABOUT ME AND ONLY ME" commercial.

"Holy smokes!" I thought. "I don't care what she stands for... I'm voting for her!"

Turns out she wasn't in my district.

Eh. Who cares. I'm writing her in for Governor.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

In Borat's Alley

If a film makes fun of everyone, how can anyone truly be offended?

See Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) for details. The president of Kazakhstan has been protesting this film since before it was released. And countless people in Borat have reportedly been suspended from school and work for the things they say and do in the mockumentary.

But the fact remains, this film doesn't so much make fun of people, as it does the stereotypes about them. And by that I mean: much of the humor in this film derives from our understanding of right and wrong; prejudice and reality. We can laugh at Borat Sagdiyev's anti-semitism precisely because we know it's wrong (it doesn't hurt to know that Sacha Baron Cohen is himself Jewish). And though we know Borat is a carciature of someone from a small country in the former Soviet Republic, we don't honestly believe he's an accurate representation of the Kazakh people.

We can laugh at politically "incorrect" conversations because we know those stereotypes are, again, gross exaggerations of irrational fears on both sides of the divide. From Borat's reluctance to eat a sandwich made by a nice, old Jewish woman... to his mistaking an elevator for a hotel room, Borat emerges as a veritable personification of sterotypes... he himself is a stereotype, just as he stereotypes others. And that's funny.

Ditto with his interactions with Christian Evangelicans (the friends of "Mr. Jesus"), various government officials, the Midwesterners, etc. It's our awareness of political correctedness, in fact, that drives much of the film's intelligent humor.

But that's not all. What I most enjoyed about this film was the "candid camera" aspect. Cohen's interactions with the general American public are perhaps the film's most hilarious moments.

But first, a word or two about the "plot."

Borat is a reporter from a small town in Kazakhstan. He's sent to America by his government to learn about the American way of life, so that Kazakhstan might emulate it. Borat and his "producer" travel to New York for that very purpose, and hilarity ensues. In acquainting himself with American television, Borat becomes smitten with C.J. (Pamela Anderson) on Baywatch, and ultimately decides to make her his wife. He talks his producer into driving to California as part of their "learning" experience.

As they journey across the lower 48, Borat interviews with countless politicans, etiquette experts and the like. Many of these "interviews" and run-ins are "real" (or so we are lead to believe). The everyday people Cohen encounters (dressed as Borat) are all under the impression they're speaking to a reporter from Kazakhstan, and so they don't realize they're being filmed for a movie.

Or to use the modern lingo, Cohen is "punking" people all over the U.S., posing as Borat, the naive reporter from Kazakhstan, when... in fact... he's a comedian from the U.K. making a film. The responses, then, are genuine and — at times — horrible glimpses inside the dark American psyche.

The end result: the funniest movie I've seen since Anchorman. Though I would say the first two-thirds is substantially more amusing than the last... I think that had something to do with the fact that they needed to tie the sketches together to keep the plot rolling towards its conclusion.

A word of caution: don't take impressionable young minds to see this. While much of the humor is "smart," there are also some very juvenile (and so very raunchy) elements. So it's a double-edged sword in that much of the comedy will be lost on younger audiences (not to mention, they'll see things they probably shouldn't).

There was actually one scene where — though I recognized it as being funny — I literally sat in my seat with my jaw gaping open, unable to laugh.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing on screen. And if you've seen Borat, I bet you could guess which scene I'm talking about in three tries.

OK. Maybe four.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Daylight Slavings

"So, what time is it?" my mother asked.

"10 a.m.," I replied. "No, wait. It's 9 a.m."

"Yes, but what time is it really?"


This past weekend, my sister and her s.o. hosted a Halloween party. Washington and I had costumes to wear, but nowhere to wear them, so we made the three hour drive to my sister's just to have an excuse. We departed late Saturday and, by the time we returned late Sunday, our internal clocks were hopelessly out of whack.

You see, my sister is in another time zone, and we happened to be traveling during the "fall back" of Daylight Savings. So when we got to her place around 10:45 p.m."her time," it was 9:45 p.m. "our time." So we had to make a mental note to add an hour whenever we were asked for the time.

But then around 2 a.m. (her time), the clocks were set back for Daylight Savings. So technically, for an hour (before "our" clocks were likewise set back), we were on the same time.

But then "our" clocks also added a little sand to the stockpile, and we were once again faced with an hour differential (or do we all change at the same moment, regardless of what "time" it is? I don't even know).

The next morning (we were at my folks' by this point), my father had forgotten to set back one clock. There were two clocks positioned next to each other, and I wasn't sure which one was correct. The one that said 8 a.m.? The one that said 7?

And was it not, in actuality, 6 o'clock "my time"? Or 7?

I checked my cell phone. It said 8. I turned it off, and then on again. And it said 7.

"So it's 7 here," I thought. "That means it's 6 a.m. there."

And then for a brief moment between periods of restless sleep, I fumed about Daylight Savings.

"What a ridiculous concept," I considered (this was not my first time pontificating the matter). "How conceited is man! To play with time like this..."


If you're not following me here (and I wouldn't blame you if not), here's a recap:

I traveled from one time zone and into another. I had to add an hour to whatever my watch said.

Daylight savings happened while in this "other" time zone. I had to subtract an hour.

I returned from this time zone to my original starting point. So I subtracted yet another hour.

In all: four different time zones in 16 hours (or was it 15?), with a potential overlap between the two. I imagine a transatlantic flight is less of a "trip" than that.


For most of you, this switch is rather elementary. I mean, most of the U.S. has been on the Daylight Savings bandwagon for decades. Arizona and Indiana had long refused to comply, however, and I — for one — wish they'd stood their ground in this debate.

But not for business, agricultural or even diplomatic reasons. For me, it's entirely a matter of physics.

There is such a thing are "real" time. And now Indiana has joined much of the U.S. in defying "real" time for half of the year.

As an aspiring philosopher with an interest in Big Bang, Planck time, and all that jazz... playing with time, as we do, smacks of the sort of egotism that has long distinguished man from other members of the animal kingdom.


"What time is it?" the chicken asked the coyote.

"It's time for lunch."


OK, OK. So there are wormholes, black holes, and all sorts of other cosmic unknowns that call into question our very notions of time. But the fact remains, the time of the day and the day of the year depends on two things:

The rotation of the earth on its axis, and the revolution of the earth around the sun.

So unless it's slowed down all of a sudden — or unless it sped up when I wasn't looking — it makes sense to LEAVE THE CLOCK ALONE.


But what do I know? I bunk on the sofa when I'm at my parents', and this past weekend — early Sunday morning, just as the clocks were "technically" resetting — I went around the living room and took the batteries out of two of them.

I couldn't sleep with all that ticking.


But all is not lost! On my fourth journey through the man-made time vortex that is Daylight Savings, I was — at long last — back in my timezone. And, because "Daylight Savings" was officially over, we were back on "real time" again.

So that sound you heard last Sunday — that breeze sweeping over your shoes and rattling those fallen leaves —

That was my sigh of relief.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Shortest Story Ever Told

On a recent trip here, I was directed to this.

Go ahead. Click it. It's a pretty interesting list of "six word novels" (new meaning to the term "short story," I s'pose).

Basically, it's a response to Wired's request that big shot writers take a stab at mirroring Hemingway's six word story:

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

As I read over the 33 submissions, I couldn't help but think that no one had truly accomplished what Hemingway had done. The above sentence really tells a story... one you can imagine, from beginning to end.

But that's not to say many of those submissions aren't clever (they are)... just that the original works best for me.

A Few of My Favorites

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time
- Alan Moore

It’s behind you! Hurry before it
- Rockne S. O’Bannon

I’m your future, child. Don’t cry.
- Stephen Baxter

Lie detector eyeglasses perfected: Civilization collapses.
- Richard Powers

To save humankind he died again.
- Ben Bova

K.I.A. Baghdad, Aged 18 - Closed Casket
- Richard K. Morgan

Epitaph: He shouldn't have fed it.
- Brian Herbert

He read his obituary with confusion.
- Steven Meretzky


As I read over these, I felt compelled to generate a few of my own. Granted, none of these are as good as the above, but it is a fun exercise....
  1. For sale: bulletproof vest. Some damage.
  2. Pete and Repeat: A boating disaster.
  3. Get that kid a better helmet.
  4. Tell me you love me. Please.
  5. One hand claps. Buddhists everywhere applaud.
  6. "Stop!" he shouted. "Or I'll..." BANG!
  7. Once upon a time. The End.
  8. It's all over before it begins.
  9. Once upon a time, she smiled...
  10. The nursing home smelled of circumstance.
  11. Stories upon stories littered the halls.
  12. Untold stories blanketed the padded walls.
  13. Dear John: Return my stuff. Ciao!
  14. Her hopes meant years of loneliness.
  15. For Sale: Engagement ring, slightly used.
  16. His hermitage was marked by fear.
  17. "I have nothing left! To say..."
  18. The dingo's babysitting career was short-lived.
  19. Proud parent of an honors student.
  20. My child's an honor roll student.
  21. I live alone in the city.
  22. She died alone, surrounded by cats.
  23. She lived full of sleep, waiting.
  24. But I only wanted a tune-up!
  25. Give me my monkey, you ape!
  26. Ophelia: Lovely day for a swim!
  27. Columbus: See! The world isn't FLA—
  28. I can't wait to grow up!
  29. Um. You just called me "Stephanie."
  30. My boyfriend is up for parole.
  31. "Nothing's wrong!" she screamed out. "Nothing!"
  32. Does this make my butt big?
  33. I wish you hadn't said that.
  34. I pronounce you husband and strife.
  35. You got my ring on EBAY?!
  36. But he was always so quiet!
  37. Recite pi to the last digit.
  38. Milk, milk, lemonade. Round the corner...
  39. Her existence was sad; sedate. Ordinary.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Flags of Our Fathers (Movie Review)

I'm about to admit something that would make me tremendously unpopular among film professionals.

But not many folks read these pages — least of all Hollywood celebrities and studios looking for writers "just like me" — so it's only with slight hesitation that I admit...

While I haven't seen all of the films Clint Eastwood has directed... I haven't enjoyed the ones I did.

OK, go ahead. Gasp. I hear you already, "But I loved Mystic River!" and "Didn't Million Dollar Baby get all sorts of Academy Awards?"

Most people "loved" it... and, yes, it did.

And knowing that perhaps only elevated my distaste for both movies. The Mystic River (2003) plot relied too heavily on bizarre coincidences — which culminated in some of the most laughable dialogue I've yet to witness in "serious" drama. And the "plot twist" in Million Dollar Baby (2004) turned an "OK" movie about a boxer into a blase treatment of euthanasia.

"What about Bridges of Madison County?" you ask.

It's been awhile since I've seen it and — though I do recall finding it to be "touching" in parts — I didn't love it as much as many folks did. But I certainly thought more of it than I did the other two aforementioned films.

Which brings me to the actual point of this review: Eastwood's newest, Flags of Our Fathers (2006). In Flags, Eastwood tells the story of the men depicted in perhaps Joe Rosenthal's most recognizable war photograph.

I'm speaking of course of those six men who planted the American flag on Iwo Jima during WWII. Three died before the war was over and — though we do get to know them "on the field" — Flags really focuses on the three "heroes" who survived. It also explores the controversy behind the photograph, and espouses one of the more commonly accepted explanations for why it has been difficult to name, with absolute certainty, the men in the picture.

But it does a little more than that, too. It explores the emotional and psychological complexities the men experienced... both on the battlefield, and off. It relies in large part on the Native American Marine, Ira Hayes, to explore these issues. Hayes resented the moniker "hero," and — along with Navy medic John "Doc" Bradley (one of the other five who helped him raise the flag) — Hayes likewise resents being used as a "money raising machine" by the American government. We see through Hayes just how, exactly, the U.S. government treats its "heroes" — something I'm sorry to report hasn't changed much today (or have we finally started to give our troops the proper equipment on the field... and the proper mental, financial and health care when they return?).

And I don't know if it's because of my general distaste for war movies, or my general dislike for Eastwood films... but somehow two negatives joined to make a lukewarm positive. In short: I liked this better than Baby, and I liked this better than River. Though I still wouldn't nominate it for any awards.

So that, of course, means this film isn't getting the rave reviews that greeted his two previous Oscar phenoms. It's hovering in the lower 70s on Rotten Tomatoes. Not a bad overall rating, but rather bleak in comparison to the 90's given to the other two films.

So what didn't I like about it?

  • The graphic violence, for one. A given with most war movies, though, and one of the main reasons I didn't want to see this in the first place (watching a man stuff his guts back into his abdominal cavity does NOT appeal to me in the least).
  • The overdone — albeit touching — scenes where Eastwood stretches for irony and contrast, leaving the camera on for a tad to long (i.e. an otherwise powerful point becomes lost in cliche). Keep an eye out for the Japanese soldier/American soldier scene... and the strawberry dressing... and you'll see what I mean.
  • The "interview" framework took me by surprise (though I don't believe it's meant to catch us off guard) and seemed forced on film (though it may have worked in the book — I haven't read it to know).
  • The discernible tinge of a political agenda (even if I do agree)
Otherwise... not bad. But certainly not something I would recommend to anyone looking for a pick-me-up (as I was last night).