January 31, 2008

January 31, 2008

In My Opinion: Shrek the Third

I realize this movie came out approximately seventeen years ago. Alas, animated ogre-centric tales don’t rank highly on my list of must-sees. I wait until they come out on DVD…then reserve it at the library…then wait for the 300 kids who got there before me to watch it. At that point, I’m just hoping for a disc that plays and isn’t too sticky.

I liked the first Shrek movie. It was new and shiny. Funny in a cruder way than the Pixar films. And the fact that the entire film was basically a giant “Chew on this” to Disney’s Michael Eisner just added to the enjoyment. (Sorry—he’s like Steve Jobs but without the geek cachet.) The second movie wasn’t memorable to me, other than the British dynamic duo of Julie Andrews and John Cleese. Were I an animated character, I’d want them to voice my parents. (Wait, should my first choice be my actual parents? My bad.)

In any “ostensibly for kids but with plenty of in-jokes for the adults” movie, the fun for me hinges on the winking humor put in for parental delight. When you’re a kid, going to see The Little Mermaid a million times is heaven. (Yes, I speak from experience.) When you’re a parent, going to see The Little Mermaid a million times is somewhere between the fifth and sixth circles of Dante’s inferno. (If you run out of Sno-Caps during the trailers, the situation gets bumped up to seventh circle.) So I enjoyed the satire of Far, Far Away. And Worchestershire (“Class of MCDIX!”)

The Gingerbread Man was threatening to become my favorite Shrek character. He’s smart. He’s sassy. He’s delicious. (Um, trifecta!) However, the revelation that Donkey loves shrimp, perhaps almost as much as I do, cemented his status as the one I’d want to hang out with. That and his waffles. NEVER underestimate the power of a baked good.

January 30, 2008

January 30, 2008

And Then You’re Hooked

Was there an event or person that baptized you into the world of pop culture? A friend and I were talking recently about ours. For her, it was River Phoenix. I don’t remember much about him, though her memories cutting pictures of him out of periodicals like Teen Bop led to all kinds of reminiscences. Like how we’d get the Free Trial Issue of Seventeen and hide it from our parents. Or how I actually sent for (and received) an “autographed” picture of Chris O’Donnell, one of my first celebrity crushes. I think it was only $5--even then, I was cheap.

Anyway, my pop culture baptism was the movie Titanic. I remember checking the box office charts every Monday to make sure it was still #1. I became a regular Entertainment Tonight viewer. And started obsessively researching Leonardo DiCaprio. I also learned a LOT about the boat itself during that time; I spent so much time in that section of the library that I’m sure the librarians thought I wanted to build a boat.

This was also about the time I started compulsively involving myself with awards shows. So the dawn of an era on several fronts, really. In Titanic’s defense, if it baptized me into the cult of pop, the Lord of the Rings movies confirmed me. Because those got me to subscribe to Entertainment Weekly AND I went through a scary phase of cutting out every article and picture I could find from the trilogy and stapling it to my bedroom wall. Looking back on it, the whole thing was quite alarming; that wall now has a zillion tiny holes in it.

Alas, I’m in too deep to go back. It’s like the Masons, but without the cool handshakes or limitless power.

January 29, 2008

January 29, 2008

In My Opinion: Michael Clayton

There’s just something about George Clooney. Maybe it’s the swagger. The devilish grin. The twinkle in the eye. He exudes coolness. I can’t imagine him doing laundry, for example. I see him charming some elderly woman into doing his laundry while he, like, steals her something from Ikea. (What’s more disturbing: the fact that I have him breaking the law, or the fact that I have him breaking the law by stealing from Ikea?).

Anyway, all of that notwithstanding, George Clooney is just as good at Serious Acting. Take Michael Clayton, for example. It’s a heavy movie. It’s twisty and turny. There’s a lot of yelling. They all visit Milwaukee at one point. Folks, this is not a film for sensitive audiences. And yet George Clooney (to use a technical term) rocks in it. His character is known as a “fixer” because he gets the job done, whatever it is. Even if that means risking Milwaukee weather (which, true to form, was shown as…snowy).

The plot was pretty much a MacGuffin, involving something called U-North, an important memo, and the world’s longest lawsuit. Minor details. Don’t go to this movie for the plot. Go to this movie for the acting. Because it’s not just Clooney. It’s Tom Wilkinson, and Tilda Swinton, and Sydney Pollack, too.

If you missed it originally, catch it now in the re-release. See why it deserves those 7 Oscar nominations.

(And for those of us who care about that sort of thing, explosion tally: 1. But it’s really good, and we get to see it twice. Wait, does that make it 2?)

January 28, 2008

January 28, 2008

Charm Worth $7 Billion

Have you heard about the French banker who got beat by the markets to the tune of $7 billion? He’s been called a “rogue trader,” which sounds sort of cool, so that’s how I’m going to refer to him from here on out.

The Rogue Trader worked for Societe General, a giant of French banking. Like Americans, the French accord the financial industry a lot of import. Unlike Americans, the French accord almost equal import to the wine and cheese industries. Pro: a citizenry that’s happy and fed. Con: the distinct possibility of getting paid in gruyere.

Here’s a picture of the guy:

If you’re anything like me (you aren’t, but play along), you’ll agree that Liev Schreiber should definitely play him in the movie version (working title: The Rogue Trader).

From what I understand, TRT bought bad stocks, assuming the climbing markets would offset them, all the while covering his tracks. If you’re anything like me (keep playing along), you might be thinking something like, “Okay, but how did he manage to do this for $7 billion?” I mean, that’s the gross domestic product of all the countries ending in -stan put together.

According to one Frenchwoman whose interview was shown on the NBC Nightly News, TRT was always “well-dressed” and “smiling.” Which made me realize that in a culture even more obsessed with food than I am, a little bit of charm goes a LONG way.

January 25, 2008

January 25, 2008

I’m No Anti-Dentite

Going to the dentist is something few enjoy, some fear, and most regard with ambivalence. Like parsley. Or book acknowledgments. Not knowing any dentists personally (I actually have a second cousin who’s a dentist, but we’ve never met), I can’t say whether they as a group are pleased with their public image. I mean, they had a good thing going with the Trident recommendations, but I’m told that the masochistic dentist in Marathon Man is a truly singular horror.

Since any trade can use a shout-out every once in a while, allow me to share a happy dentist story. (For those of you seeking Fair and Balanced, I’m sure Google can proffer plenty of sad, angry, and/or pedophilic dentist stories.)

I had to go to the dentist this week because I noticed on Wednesday that I’d somehow done something to one of my molars. The tooth was chipped. Or the giant filling was chipped. Or something. I always fear the worst in cases like this (I see melanoma in every freckle), so I assumed that I’d have to get a crown. Despite its vaguely royal overtones, that’s not something I care to think about. Because if Wikipedia is right, crowns are pretty involved, and it’s not like I can ask the dentist to hang a tv over the chair or something.

Anyway, though my appointment was at 5, they took me in right after I got there at quarter after. I was ushered back by a pleasant-enough Hispanic MA named (no joke) Pedro. He asked me what was wrong and made (or pretended to make) notes (or maybe just doodled). Then I twiddled my thumbs for a bit (the only reading material in sight was something Field & Stream-like Latina magazine--no thanks) and looked at the ad for some new denture-securing technology.

The dentist was very nice. And “very” is really too weak a word: he was like the grandpa I never had. I was a little put out by the fact that he seemed to think I was going to pass out as he worked on me (turned out it was a “distal buckle on 30” and not a big deal). I got a lot of “you okay?” “just one more,” “this won’t hurt,” and “almost done.” What I thought was “I’m an adult, sir. I think I can take it.” What I was able to communicate with hands and tools in my mouth, though, was more of an indistinguishable noise.

All told, I was back in my car at 5:04. And since I have the world’s best insurance (government employees, holla!), the entire thing was free. Great service, great price…this is why I’ve been going there ever since I’ve had teeth.

So, not me:

January 24, 2008

January 24, 2008

Things I’ve Read: The World Without Us

Whether you believe it’ll happen via alien abduction, mutated supervirus, rapture, or natural calamity, I think it’s pretty clear that the human race is doomed. I mean, come ON. We’re too self-destructive to deserve a happily ever after. Once the coal runs out and we can no longer make our Hot Pockets, it’s all over.

But then what? What exactly would be the ramifications if people just disappeared suddenly and without warning? Eerie quiet? Rampaging packs of feral housepets? Millions of discarded Hot Pockets?

Questions like these (okay, maybe not EXACTLY like these) are answered in Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us. He doesn’t get into the “how” of human extinction. (Though he does go on for quite a bit about human ancestors. Not sure what that had to do with anything, except maybe to lure in the archaeologist/anthropologist crowd. I hear they’re a RIOT.) Rather, Weisman just looks at what would happen if we all suddenly disappeared. How long would our houses stand? What would the seas do? How long until Manhattan starts looking like something from I Am Legend?

Though the author has an almost disturbing penchant for sharing the physical characteristics of the scientists he interviews (I don’t care whether the guy is “lanky,” has “auburn hair graying at the temples,” or shows amusement with a “clipped laugh”), he manages to share information with a high bore-potential (science: wake me when it’s over) in an interesting way.

It’s a little Inconvenient Truth-esque (“We’ve damaged the planet…but we can still sorta fix it”), yes. But a riveting (okay, semi-riveting) thought experiment nonetheless.

And as for what will outlast us all? Not nuclear waste. Not even stone. To quote The Graduate: “One word: plastics.”

January 23, 2008

January 23, 2008

My Take on the Oscar Nominations

You probably assumed that I would begin this entry with a lot of squealing for Juno. Just to prove you wrong, I’d like to note how pleased I am that Casey Affleck was nominated for his performance as Robert Ford. That movie was absolutely in my top 5 for 2007.

Without further ado…

(commence squealing)

“4 nominations! Ellen Page! Writing! Reitman! Picture!”

That was pretty much my reaction to Juno’s nominations. I had obviously devolved from sentence fragments to short, one-word outbursts.

(end squealing)

And a closing threeve:
1. I hear they’re re-releasing Michael Clayton. This time, I WILL see it.
2. So glad Philip Seymour Hoffman got a nod for Charlie Wilson. He made that movie for me.
3. Bourne for editing? You mean it wasn’t edited by…a blender?
4. Judging from the number of Best Original Song slots it fills, I’m guessing Enchanted is rather musical?

January 22, 2008

January 22, 2008

In My Opinion: Capote

When thinking about how I was going to write my review of Capote, I realized it was going to come out sounding pretty pretentious. I was going to name check at least one obscure film. Maybe use a few arty movie terms. In short, the review would read not unlike a piece written by one of those people who shops at Crate & Barrel or orders off-menu. And I am definitely not one of those people (see: my fondness for Ikea and processed foods).

And yet.

Capote recounts Truman Capote’s research for his book In Cold Blood (he also wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s; this story is like that, but without Audrey Hepburn or any happiness). As it’s a period piece (the years right around 1960), you get quite a bit of smoky ambience and postwar boom enthusiasm. As it’s BASED ON A TRUE STORY, you get Philip Seymour Hoffman in a (deserved) Golden Globe-winning performance as Capote. The great thing about Hoffman is that his imitation is so spot-on that you forget there’s acting going on. You just think you’re watching the actual Truman Capote. Then you see Hoffman in something else and think, “Wait, that’s the same guy? Seriously?”

The film was minimalist (arty movie term alert), a la The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (name check). Not a lot of soundtrack. No explosions. Just people talking. Sometimes while sitting at a table. Sometimes while sitting in chairs. Even the violence (the “cold blood” part), while graphic, was relatively tame. Compared to, you know, a Bruce Willis movie.

(And I’d just like to mention Chris Cooper. The man is in EVERYTHING and gets so little credit. Rock on, sir.)

(Also, Catherine Keener as Harper Lee. Rock on, ma’am.)

“There is not a word or a sentence or a concept that you can illuminate for me.”

“You're the only person I know with the qualifications to be both a research assistant and a personal bodyguard.”

January 21, 2008

January 21, 2008

Vanity Fair

Have you ever picked up a copy of Vanity Fair? I’m not talking about the book, though Thackeray’s work isn’t bad. Check out the movie with Reese Witherspoon if you don’t feel like slogging through a thousand pages; you’ll get the gist, along with many pretty costumes.

I’m referring to the magazine. I think we all know that my taste threshold for periodicals is pretty low; I subscribe to TV Guide without pretending that it remotely resembles journalism. On the other end of the spectrum are those magazines I aspire to but somehow never reach. The mirage encompassing things like National Geographic and The Economist. Id like to be able to throw out sentences like, “Ah, I read a unique viewpoint on Bernanke’s policy shifts in The Economist the other day,” but I realize it’s not going to happen. I’m too busy reading my TV Guide.

Vanity Fair is somewhere in the middle. I find it entirely too pretentious to subscribe, but I’m not above reading it for free at the library. In my defense, the cover story of the latest issue features Indiana Jones himself and Shia LeBeouf (my Age-Inappropriate Crush #2).

Once you get past the forty pages of ads for Gucci, Banana Republic, and the like, you get to the actual meat of the magazine. The editor’s letter (side note: I’m unsure whether I care for the name “Graydon”; it makes me think of sweaters for some reason) included a timeline using episode titles from The Office to describe the life of George W. Bush. Though I’m a Republican, I found that hilarious.

You know Vanity Fair is A Serious Magazine because it eschews little blurby stories (the bread of butter of my beloved TV Guide) for a handful of features. Many of these revolve around people with at least two of the following characteristics:

1. Filthy rich.
2. Incredibly well-bred and/or royal.
3. Not American.
4. Dead.

So while I skimmed the Dominick Dunne piece about the talk of London these days (blackmail! Heather Mills!), I skipped the one about Greece’s exiled prince royal.

Of course, I read the entire Indiana Jones story, even though I had to flip to the mag’s nether regions to finish it. And even though I’ve not seen the entirety of any Indy film. I may have to change that, now that they’ve brought Cate Blanchett into the film (though, to my knowledge, as neither Queen Elizabeth nor an elf).

January 18, 2008

January 18, 2008

In My Opinion: Wall Street

Though I myself am a very low-risk investor (you’d laugh if you knew how low), I admire people who make it big by playing the market. There are a lot of fractions involved. And ticker tape. It’s all rather dazzling.

Wall Street, Oliver Stone’s 1987 film about a hotshot stockbroker (Charlie Sheen) and the trading magnate he idolizes but later takes down (Michael Douglas), can probably be best summed up in a single word: excess. The ethos of the 1980s: when even the poor had big shoulder pads and bigger hair.

Most people know the “Greed is good” speech that Michael Douglas’ character gives. And that’s really all you need to know about Gordon Gekko. He’s a one-note character, but in a really good way. (Hence the Oscar.) Gekko wants more, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it, including (and especially) insider trading. Perhaps this is where Martha Stewart got her inspiration. Or Phoebe Buffay (very obscure Friends reference).

Since the movie was filmed and set in 1987, “technology” abounded. Giant computers, with the screens that show everything in green. Cordless phones the size of shoeboxes. Lots of typewriters. Balancing out that weirdness were appearances by John C. McGinley and James Spader, looking almost impossibly young.

This movie probably won’t get you interested in the market if you aren’t already, but it will show you how millions of dollars get traded from one hand to the next, right up until that clanging bell.

“That's the thing you gotta remember about WASPs: they love animals, they can't stand people.”

“Stick to the fundamentals. That's how IBM and Hilton were built. Good things, sometimes, take time.”

“Money's only something you need in case you don't die tomorrow.”

January 17, 2008

January 17, 2008

Now THAT’S What I Call a Textbook

I was reminded recently of the wonderfulness that is a Norton anthology. I actually still have all of mine.

Though I majored in business, I took 15 literature credits in college. Only 3 of those were required. Obviously, I like to read. And not just that: I like to talk about what I’ve read. And write about it. During my junior year, I learned that I can crank out a 6-page lit analysis paper in a little over 3 hours. (Don’t ask how I learned, just accept and move on.)

The Norton anthology is one mother of a textbook. It’s usually 3 or 4 inches thick and makes a satisfying thwacking noise when you pull it out of your bag and put it on the desk. (The hardcover editions, though more expensive, are worth it for that thwack alone).

The Norton anthology is a serious textbook. It doesn’t contain any cutesy study aids. No terms in bold. No review questions at the end of the chapter. This thing doesn’t even HAVE chapters. It has sections, each of which is introduced with a little historical context. Each author is introduced with a little biographical material, and then we’re straight into the good stuff.

Only three of my lit classes used Norton anthologies:

Class: American Masterpieces (Summer 2004)
Text: The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Shorter Fifth Edition
Teacher: Mr. Kolwinska

This was the one lit class required of all students. Due to a bout of temporary INSANIY, I took it during the 3-week summer school session. Even though we didn’t cover the entire book (it’s not possible to cover an entire Norton anthology in one class; it would be like trying to eat one of those 96-ounce steaks), I still ended up with about 150 pages of reading every night. And these are Norton anthology pages: tiny, dense print.

On the plus side, the teacher always pronounced the word “Negro” with an “ooh” sound at the end. I wanted to laugh, but was afraid I’d get labeled racially-insensitive. So I laughed on the inside.

(The “shorter” edition is still almost 2,900 pages. I find that amusing.)

Class: English Masterpieces II (Fall 2004)
Text: The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume 2
Mr. Midcalf

Mr. Midcalf was hands-down my favorite teacher in college. I’m in a Facebook group devoted to the man. He had TiVo. He liked Lost. He was ridiculously snarky. Honestly, it was just too good.

Though we studied a lot of really good lit this semester, the main thing I remember is that for Victorian era men, green carnations and knee breeches were the equivalents of a subscription to O magazine and a season pass to Queer as Folk. I like to think that, were he alive today, Oscar Wilde would be the literary version of Carson Kressley.

Class: English Masterpieces I (Fall 2005)
Text: The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume 1
Teacher: Mr. Midcalf

Yes, I took the English Masterpieces classes out of order. That was just how the class-rotation cookie crumbled. I made sacrifices to fit this one in; it was held at the same time as the science elective I wanted, so I ended up taking a hellacious science class that required such activities as bird-watching and leaf-collecting. For real.

Anyway, Masterpieces I was about three things: Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and Paradise Lost. Actually, I guess it was about one thing: the epic. The four part definition of which I can still recite, thank you very much.

*pauses to recite*

To my chagrin, I still possess only a working knowledge of Paradise Lost. That “Heav’nly Muse” didn’t sing loudly enough for me, I guess.

(I bought this book from someone second-hand, hence the absence of a dust jacket. The book appears to be harboring a dusty mold colony of some sort. Perhaps I should stop storing it in my basement.)

I didn’t keep a lot of college textbooks; it’s too tempting to sell them back, even though you usually end up getting $5 for something that originally cost you $200 or so. But the Norton anthologies…they are with me still.

January 16, 2008

January 16, 2008

In My Opinion: Bee Movie

Regular readers will be heartened to hear that this is the last of my holiday movie reviews. However, they may be saddened to hear that I continue to cram movies into the spare time I have between work, school, and illegally-downloaded cable programming. So look for my opinions of Wall Street and Capote in the coming days.

As David Letterman would say, “But that’s not why you called, is it?”

I think the lion’s share of the battle when going to a kids’ movie is realizing that it’s just that: a kids’ movie. It’s not cinematic greatness. It’s 90 minutes of bright colors and loud noises. Accept it for what it is, not what you want it to be. It helps to go with kids, or see the movie with kids present. (This, by the way, is the one time I’m onboard with allowing kids in theatres. But they must be confined to G-rated films.)

Bee Movie, as you may have gathered from the ridiculous amounts of promotion during basically ALL of 2007, features the adventures of a bee (voiced by Jerry “What’s the deal?” Seinfeld) who sues the human race for stealing all the honey. He’s aided by a florist (voiced by Renee “Bridget Jones” Zellweger) and his best friend (voiced by Matthew “Ferris Bueller” Broderick—I would’ve liked to see a little more press for him; he's adorable).

Overall, I wanted more of the inner workings of the hive and the random Ray Liotta plotline (seriously, where did THAT come from?). I could have done with even less of the Chris Rock character. I realize I’m probably the only one who didn’t find the mosquito-cum-lawyer funny, but…eh.

“We’re going 0900, J-Gate. What do think, fuzzy boy, you big enough?”
“That depends on what ‘0900’ means.”

“Tivo. You mean you can just freeze live TV? That's insane.”
“What, you don’t have anything like that?”
“We have ‘Hivo,’ but it’s a disease. It’s a horrible, horrible disease.”

January 15, 2008

January 15, 2008

Remember This? Volume 2: Fashion Plates

I always thought this toy was only a Barbie-related product. However, since both Fashion Plates and Barbie placed an idealized, impossibly-proportioned woman as the object of young girls’ affections and aspirations during the greater part of the 1980s, it’s a match made in marketing heaven. And I’m sure the wacky body imagery didn’t screw my generation up AT ALL.

There’s so much I love about the box alone. Check out the giant hair on the models. (I believe America’s highest per capita hairspray usage happened sometime in the late 1980s, kickstarting global warming and giving Al Gore a reason to live). Also, I’m not sure any girl in the target age range for this product could produce as good looking a sketch as those featured. As anyone who’s tried to do a pencil rubbing of anything EVER knows, it usually just ends up a blurry smudge. In this case, though, it was a colorful blurry smudge, because there were COLORED PENCILS.

[Sidebar: I’ve always thought of colored pencils as the “cool kids” of the art supplies world. They have cachet. Crayons are for babies. Markers are messy and bleed through the paper. But you get yourself some colored pencils, a little looseleaf paper (and, apparently, a set of Fashion Plates), and you have got yourself the makings of a masterpiece.]

I’m not sure whether any of today’s designers played with these as a kid (you know Mizrahi totally did), but those little plastic pieces gave me hours of enjoyment.

January 14, 2008

January 14, 2008

Live-Blogging the 2008 Golden Globes

Thanks to the marvel of modern technology and an assist from AOL, I was able to live-blog the pseudo-event that was last night’s “Golden Globes” (those are air quotes). People familiar with my celebrity fascination know how disappointed I was to not be able to see famous people winning shiny things while drunk.

(8:01:12 PM): “Golden Globes Winners Special”?
(8:01:41 PM): Wait, am I watching Access Hollywood? Oh, no, they're just recycling the anchors.
(8:01:58 PM): Dave Karger from EW, represent! Yes!
(8:02:25 PM): I see we're padding the hour with commentary.
(8:04:47 PM): I love Cate Blanchett, so I'm glad to see her win...but as a man? Not sure I can get behind that.
(8:05:13 PM): Gollum's up for a Globe? Yeah, baby.
(8:05:33 PM): Entourage: another show I need to start watching. That list keeps getting longer, though I'm downloading as fast as I can.
(8:08:05 PM): I could really do without the commentary by Billy and Nancy. Seriously.
(8:14:34 PM): Come on, Jon Hamm!
(8:14:45 PM): YES!!!
(8:15:08 PM): When it's released on DVD, I plan to actually buy Mad Men. It's so good, I'm willing to PAY for it.
(8:16:26 PM): Nice to see that society as a whole has accepted vermin in the kitchen.
(8:18:14 PM): I'm just glad to see Amy Adams doing well. Even though her Hot Girl provided some tension for JAM (only Office fans will know what I mean), I really like her.
(8:18:20 PM): COME ON, Ellen Page!
(8:18:35 PM): Oh, HELL no. Who is that who won? A French person?
(8:19:03 PM): My girl was robbed.
(8:24:05 PM): Billy Bush's hair is reminding me of Gordon Gekko's from Wall Street. And that was set in 1985.
(8:24:16 PM): Oh, I loved Jesse James. That picture haunted me.
(8:24:27 PM): My acting nominees are not doing so well. Maybe I'm bad luck.
(8:26:44 PM): Queen Latifah wins for “Llife Support"? It can't be a good sign when I've not even HEARD of the movie.
(8:31:21 PM): Best Actor in a TV Comedy...Alec, Alec, Alec...
(8:31:37 PM): Oh, I LOVE that the Redd Foxx clip is the clip they used.
(8:31:48 PM): I literally could not breathe for all the laughing when I first saw that.
(8:31:53 PM): Damn, I like all of these.
(8:32:30 PM): Seriously, I like all of these.
(8:32:37 PM): Okay, Californication is good. I can take that.
(8:33:10 PM): Yeah, Californication really ISN'T a comedy, is it?
(8:34:48 PM): Not many people have seen Extras, but I can attest that it really does deserve everything it gets. It's hilarious.
(8:35:35 PM): Good to see that Barry Watson has work...even if it's Samantha Who.
(8:35:48 PM): Tina Fey! My glam and famous alter ego!
(8:36:26 PM): YES!!!
(8:44:30 PM): I want to see The Savages. I hope it comes to Milwaukee at some point and doesn't just bypass us for Chicago.
(8:44:48 PM): Johnny Depp wins...and yet I still have no desire to see Sweeney Todd. Not even a little.
(8:45:37 PM): "Hey Jude" is playing. And I am transfixed.
(8:47:22 PM): Wow, is it almost over already? I'm sort of in Awards Show Mode, so I'm ready for another 2 hours AT LEAST.
(8:52:16 PM): Come on, Mad Men...
(8:52:28 PM): Oh, but The Tudors is also good. This is hard.
(8:52:38 PM): YES!!!
(8:55:19 PM): I've heard that Julie Christie has something like 7 minutes of airtime in her role. Her GOLDEN-GLOBE winning role.
(8:56:01 PM): I also need to see Michael Clayton. Especially since there's a scene set in Milwaukee.
(8:56:45 PM): Viggo Mortensen with a Russian accent: slightly less hot.
(8:57:17 PM): "An actor's actor." What does that even mean?
(8:58:59 PM): Atonement wins, and...it's over. No stars. No dresses. No booze. No awards for Juno. Sadness.

January 11, 2008

January 11, 2008

Maybe That’s Why There’s a “G” on the Helmet

The Green Bay Packers are a big deal in Wisconsin. Those who’ve read this post know that, as does anyone who’s ever watched a Packers game. Many Wisconsinites see nothing embarrassing about wearing foam cheese wedges on their heads, attending December games in nothing but body paint and blaze orange pants, or planning weddings around the playoffs. That’s just the way things are.

However, even I, someone inured to this sort of madness by 24 years of exposure, am beginning to think we’ve reached a new (low?) high.

I can get behind the waiting line for season tickets. I understand that these things get passed down for generations and that there’s high demand.

I can get behind a packed stadium for games. What else is there to do in Green Bay? (Not a thing; I’ve been there.)

I can pretend to get behind a packed stadium for pep rallies, like the one being held tonight. That’s right, a pep rally. Our ardor for the Packers is like that of a small Texas town for its high schoolers. There will be no playing. There won’t even be practicing (people also swarm to watch summer camp practices in hordes). Just…pep.

But I’m not sure I can pretend to get behind this:

After big snow storms (frequency during Wisconsin winter: approximately once week), the Packers put out an announcement like this one for today, and interested parties can go to Lambeau Field and shovel for $8 an hour. As you can see, they do.

I can only chalk this up to an almost religious fervor. I guess the Packers really are God’s team.

January 10, 2008

January 10, 2008

In My Opinion: National Treasure

The first National Treasure movie encompassed many things that I love. History. Intrigue. Washington, D.C. Masons. $100 bills. You get the picture. Since the sequel promised to take all of those elements and add a stop in the U.K., I was quite excited. Everything’s better when England is added; it’s like butter.

Some people like to learn historical trivia from books (the “old school” method). Or from someone who was there (the “really old school” method). I prefer television and movies. You can TELL me about the President’s Book of Secrets. You can even have the President tell me about the President’s Book of Secrets. But I’d rather see Nicolas Cage and Sienna Miller busting into the Library of Congress to steal the book.

(Qualm #1: Getting into the Library of Congress is not simple. Shiny badge or not, there are protocols. And detectors. And guards. And getting into the main reading room is even harder; I’ve been there four times and the closest I’ve gotten is the second-floor observatory. Come on, Congress, help a girl out.)

The Mt. Vernon scene amused me on several levels. One, I had no idea you could rent it out. Then again, when you’re the President, you can probably pretty much rent out anything you want. Birthday party on the moon? Done. (Hence the purpose of NASA.) Two, I was glad to see they’ve finally finished the visitor center construction. Because when I was there last, it was less “Washington’s grand home” and more “giant piles of dirt and scaffolding.” Three, the President didn’t appear to have a security entourage. He’s walking around a large crowd outdoors—not like anything could go wrong there.

(Qualm #2: As he’s leaving Mt. Vernon, Nicolas Cage tells his friends to meet him at the Library of Congress in “20 minutes.” Even in the dead of night and ignoring all stoplights, there’s NO WAY you could go that distance in that time. Well, maybe in a space shuttle [hence the purpose of NASA].)

I don’t plan on ever going to Mt. Rushmore (sorry, South Dakota; you’ll have to do better than that), so I enjoyed seeing it as well as learning that (spoiler alert) it’s actually just a front for a huge golden city. They should really put THAT in the brochures.

January 9, 2008

January 9, 2008

To the Chick Flick I Might See

Dear 27 Dresses,

How did you DO that? How did you get me to consider seeing you? You’re a chick flick. I don’t DO chick flicks. I prefer movies with explosions and car chases and people who shoot and steal. Not ones in which people go to karaoke and fall in love and drink wine and talk on the telephone. All good things to do (well, not the karaoke), but not things I’m going to pay money to watch.

But you, 27 Dresses, have me all confused. I’ve seen your trailer a couple of times now, before holiday films that had explosions and car chases and people who shoot and steal stuff. And that trailer impressed me. Greatly. More than I’d care to admit, to be honest. As I see it, you have several things going for you:

1. Katherine Heigl. I am the one American who DOESN’T watch Grey’s Anatomy. Nonetheless, I found Katie’s correction of the mispronunciation of her last name at the Emmys priceless.

She strikes me as one of those women who is fun and smart and just also happens to be gorgeous.

2. James Marsden. I’ve made my feelings known.

3. Humor. I laughed during your trailer, 27 Dresses. Several times. You were written by the same person who did The Devil Wears Prada. Saw that. Thought it was only okay. I don’t mind saying that you look better, though you also appear to be Streep-less.

I’m not making any promises. You shouldn’t get any ideas about converting me to the cult of chick flicks or anything. There will be no commitment. But you’ve gotten me to think about some things. And caused some confusing feelings. So that’s something.

See you soon (or will I?),

January 8, 2008

January 8, 2008

He’s So Dreamy

Disclaimer: This one’s for the girls. The males should go off and play videogames or build things with tools, or whatever it is guys are doing these days.

Ladies, behold:

James Marsden. He of Hairspray, Enchanted, and X-Men. (Of which I’ve only seen the last. Shocker.) Currently of 27 Dresses. (About which I have conflicted thoughts; more on that tomorrow.) The picture above is from Superman Returns (which I have also seen). I tried to find one in which he isn’t smiling, so you’re not distracted by the perfect teeth. This required a LOT of Google image searching. I do what I must.

This is not just a pretty man. This is a beautiful man. You know why he was picked to play Prince Charming in Enchanted? I think it’s because the mathematical structures of his face are so ideal they make him almost unreal in beauty.

I find staring at him soothing, like looking at pictures of tropical beaches. Or sunsets. Doctors should treat women suffering from high blood pressure with pictures of James Marsden. The blue eyes. The fantastic hair. The sculpted cheekbones.

It’s almost unreal.

(Fun Friends reference: James Marsden was on my very first freebie list. I think I was…15.)

January 7, 2008

January 7, 2008

Remember This? Little Golden Books

Last week’s Luann comic strips featured the book The Poky Little Puppy. (Sidebar: Luann isn’t one of my favorites, but it involves firefighters and occasionally makes me laugh. In other words, it’s the comic equivalent of my job. So I read it.)

As someone who is neither an elementary school teacher nor, well, 6 years old, I haven’t thought about The Poky Little Puppy in years. I’m pretty sure I used to own a copy, though. Along with approximately one million other Little Golden Books. Remember those? Cardboard covers? That inexplicable lion in a train cart on the back? Good times.

The ones I have fondest memories of seem to be those that featured Sesame Street characters. (As you can see, my adulation of television started pretty early.) There was one called The Monster at the End of This Book, in which Grover (I think) spent the entire book getting the reader ready for the monster. The monster who turned out to be (spoiler alert) Grover. You know what that’s called? Character development.

I also remember a book with Big Bird and a lot of red things. Tomatoes, fire hydrants, etc. I’m sure there was also a plot of some kind. Then again, this is a book aimed at preschoolers. “Some things are red” is a thesis that could probably keep them going for hours. It’s pretty much the foundation for “I Spy.”

I’m pretty sure they still make Little Golden Books. I’m also pretty sure that today’s youth will only be interested in Little Golden iPods or Little Golden Wiis.

Kids these days.

January 4, 2008

January 4, 2008

Sorry I Missed It: Dirty Sexy Money

This may be the first “Sorry I Missed It” in which I started out on the bandwagon, fell off, and got back on. And I have the WGA strike to thank for it. We’ll pretend that makes it all worthwhile. (Nope.)

Along with Pushing Daisies, Back to You, and Reaper, Dirty Sexy Money was one of the new shows I marked to check out. Pushing Daisies stuck. The other three didn’t, though I’ve since caught up on all of them (darn strike). DSM had a couple of unique things going for it, though. I have to start with Peter Krause. Loved him in Sports Night. Loved. I also had hopes of using DSM to replenish my soapy tv quotient, sorely lacking now that The O.C. is off the air. And I just like saying “Dirty Sexy Money.” It weirds people out, even in context.

For those unfamiliar (pretty much everyone), Dirty Sexy Money is about the uber-rich Darling family behaving badly and the amused everyman lawyer (Peter Krause), who cleans up their messes.

The pilot I liked. I thought several interesting plot threads were introduced, though none grabbed me. Peter Krause’s Nick, though, makes the show. His reactions to the demands of the Darlings are simply priceless. Sample quote: “I’m not going to give a check to a tranny hooker.”

For those of us not fortunate enough to have our last names immortalized on a hotel chain or a bank, this show is a chance to vicariously experience the Good Life. It’s dirty, it’s sexy, and a whole lot of money changes hands.

January 3, 2008

January 3, 2008

In My Opinion: Juno

Though I saw Juno on the very last day of 2007, it may very well be my favorite movie of the year. It was just as good as I’d hoped, and that rarely happens. (Thus I’ve trained myself to thoroughly enjoy anticipation, as it usually ends up being the best part.)

(I fear to tread where Ken Levine has so excellently gone before, so allow me to point you to his excellent review first.)

Juno opens with Ellen Page’s title character (“Like the city in Alaska?” “No.”) chugging one of those huge, old-school bottles of Sunny D. Food and beverage fan though I am, I hadn’t thought about Sunny D in a LONG time. It’s always confused me; it’s like impostor orange juice. Less-glamorous Tang.

Juno ends with Ellen Page and Michael Cera (he of Arrested Development, a truly great program) dueting on “Anyone Else but You.” It’s sweet, but not sappy.

In between is an cast (including Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, and J.K. Simmons) spouting dialogue that will make you laugh a lot and maybe even cry a little. (SO glad I sat in the back of the theater. No one could see me acting like a WUSS when I started crying at the end.)

Still not convinced? Three of my favorite things about Juno that have nothing to do with anything:
1. It’s set in Minnesota. Many people seem to think that’s where I live; there ARE a freakish number of similarities.
2. There’s a cameo by a Hot Pocket.
3. One of my favorite sites is name-checked.

Oh, and Rainn Wilson has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it part. Now you HAVE to see it, right?

January 2, 2008

January 2, 2008

In My Opinion: Almost Famous

I’m a sucker for the bildungsroman (“coming of age story,” for those of you without an affinity for overlong words). I’m not sure whether it reaffirms my faith in mankind (a faith that the success of MySpace, Nintendo products, and Ashton Kutcher have put in serious doubt) or just reminds me that becoming a grown-up is rarely fun for anybody. Maybe both.

Almost Famous is BASED ON A TRUE STORY. Another thing I enjoy. Somehow, the thought that some version of what I’m seeing actually happened to (less-photogenic) people (with worse vocabularies) makes the whole thing better. I’ll bet it’s like what hunters feel when they eat something they killed themselves. (Am I right, Charlton Heston? And is that why the NRA keeps sending me email?)

The main character, William Miller, is a budding journalist who ends up traveling with the rock band Stillwater in 1973. His experiences on tour end up netting him a cover story in Rolling Stone. The rub is that he’s 15. Remember, this is 1973. And the tour of a rock band. You do the math.

Quick Hits
Soundtrack: Because Cameron Crowe, the director (and the man who actually lived the film) wanted real songs, the film spent $3.5 million just on music. It’s good, if you’re into that sort of Led Zeppelin/The Who thing. (I am not.)
Cast: The kid playing the lead was good, though he didn’t necessarily have to emote a whole lot. The supporting cast really steals the show: Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand, and Billy Crudup.
Ambience: Ah, 1973. Good times, baby. Good times. I love the reference to the new device that can transmit a page in ONLY 18 MINUTES over the phone lines. Just a crazy world, innit?

“I’ve seen the future and this all works out reasonably well.”

“Don’t worry--he only means half of what he says.”
“Which half?”

“I didn’t ask for this role, but I’ll play it.”

“Famous people are just more interesting.”

January 1, 2008

January 1, 2008

Listen to This, Volume 9: Death Cab for Cutie

Finally, a band NOT discovered via commercial or television show. Well, I may be cheating a little there, since Death Cab was one of Seth Cohen’s favorites. Ah, Seth. I knew ye well.

Anyway, I found Death Cab on the 2007 Grammy nominees CD. The beauty of the Grammy nominees CDs is that they take the best, catchiest, or most-popular songs of the year (not always the same thing) and put them on one disc. Convenient for playing. Or illegal burning to your laptop. (Wait, what?)

After I’d gotten the songs that I wanted (and smugly noted several that I already had—yeah, I’m hip), I decided to just listen to the entire thing while doing housework. Skipping the country songs, of course. And anything by an American Idol. (Whose idol? Not mine.)

Track 20, Death Cab’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” made me actually stop and listen, right from the opening guitar strains. Through some sort of indie rock gestalt, the music and lyrics combine to much more than the sum of the parts. And they’re good parts. Really good.

I’ve gotten through three of the band’s albums, and I have to say there are more songs than not that I enjoy. Then again, I’m a big fan of most things indie (see: my taste in movies, my Shins fandom), so it’s sort of a given.