November 30, 2010

November 30, 2010

My Commute in Four Minutes

The petty annoyances of my commute have been discussed here ad infinitum. I’ve told you about inaccurate arrival times, hijacked buses, and my fellow riders, God bless ‘em.

But not until now have I been able to give you a visual aid. A way to see what I see during my (ideally) 45- to (less-ideally) 90-minute ride into and out of the District each day. This video, to my understanding, was taken by some guy with a dashboard cam. It covers much more ground than my commute does (seriously, I have never been on some of these roads for any reason), but my little ride is definitely included.

Come. See what I see.



He mislabels the Mixing Bowl interchange (which is actually nowhere near the Pentagon), but it’s still pretty cool. Don’t you wish you got to deal with this traffic every day?

November 29, 2010

November 29, 2010

When Samuel Met Tina

Did the Americans among us all have a lovely Thanksgiving? I hope so. While I wasn’t crazy brave enough to go anywhere near a mall on Black Friday, I certainly partook in the “stuff yourself silly” tradition whole heartedly (and stomachedly).

But now, alas, it is time to return to more serious matters. Like the fact that Tina Fey won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and none of you came. Since it was broadcast on PBS, you have a good chance of still catching a rerun. Or, y’know, just watch it here:



But seriously, shame on you. And also, shame on me, because I could have actually attended in person. That’s right, I COULD HAVE BEEN IN THE SAME ROOM WITH JON HAMM. Isn’t this exactly the reason I moved to the same area as the Kennedy Center? Use your head, Heather!

My mental anguish aside, I really enjoyed this presentation. You may not share my disgustingly-fervent adoration of Tina Fey, but you have to admit that she bridges the worlds of comedy and politics with distinction. I mean, five minutes of any 30 Rock is packed with more meta-humor and topical references than some episodes of Fox and Friends news shows that shall remain nameless.

Even without the whole Sarah Palin thing, which you have to admit, is perhaps definitive proof for the liberals that there is a God. Am I completely comfortable with the thought that comedy is affecting politics in a Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle sort of way? No. Really no. But that’s the way things are in our hyper-aware world. At least Tina Fey helps us laugh at it.

November 25, 2010

November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving: A Threeve

Wow, what do you know, it’s Turkey Day. I mean THANKSGIVING, for all you purists out there. It’s not like the most important part of the day is food, right? Right? RIGHT?

In that spirit, here are some things* I’m thankful for:

1. Treadmills. In preparation for today’s feast, I have logged almost 11 hours of pre-emptive treadmill time. That’s over 4500 calories. I plan to pretty much wipe that out today.

2. Magazines. They give me something to do while commuting. They’re a great gift for the person who already has everything. They entertain and instruct. Best of all, they don’t give you carpal tunnel or inky fingers.

3. Corrective eyewear. I realized recently that if I were living even 200 years ago, I would be functioning at a much lower level. (I would also be unable to vote and a mother of many babies. HOORAY FOR MODERN TIMES.)

4. Deep fryers. To wit:



Happy Thanksgiving.

*I’m obviously thankful for people, too: family, friends, and all of you, dear readers. But let’s not get misty-eyed; there’s gravy to be had.

November 24, 2010

November 24, 2010

In My Opinion: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

Word to the wise: if you’re expecting me to review this film as a movie on its own merits, without regard to the source material, you’d best move on. Rabid Potterphile that I am, I consider the film and the book inseparable. I understand the need to condense, to edit, to modify. Yet I disagree with wholesale butchery of source material in order to produce a 90-minute theatrical romp.

This film is obviously not a 90-minute theatrical romp. However, I’d argue it’s less of a film than it could be. You don’t even have to go to the other end of the spectrum (a four-hour page-to-screen adaptation), though I’d watch that, too. I simply would have liked a little more clarification vis-à-vis:

The Dursleys. We saw them leaving Privet Drive. We didn’t see any of the wistful parting between Dudley and Harry. Got a glimpse of a slightly-rueful Petunia, but that’s it. I thought of that parting as the redeeming moment for characters who (granted) became more odious and less important as the series progressed.

The Wedding. Um, wasn’t Harry supposed to be in disguise? Heck, wasn’t he supposed to be in disguise for several scenes in this movie in addition to the ministry break-in?

The Horcruxes. How about a little consistency in number, location, and items remaining? Readers know that there are seven in all: diary, locket, ring, diadem, cup, Nagini, and Harry himself. At one point, someone mentions there are three horcruxes left. Obviously, we can rule Nagini and Harry in. But only one additional horcrux will be handled? Since the movie included the Golden Snitch, I guess the ring/resurrection stone is the third? So the diadem and cup are completely thrown to the winds. Poor Ravenclaw.

The Snatchers. I understand why we didn’t get the whole “Dean Jordan in the woods” plotline. And why the movie had to focus on Harry, Ron, and Hermione as opposed to what was happening in the rest of the world. But as someone who lives for those small details, those scenes at the Ministry of Magic or St. Mungo’s, I would have loved to see how the wizarding world at large was handling things.

Though I started with a heck of a lot of complaining, I loved things about the film, as well:

The Ministry. Gorgeous. Everything from the gleaming atrium to Umbridge’s office. The scene involving the break-in was perhaps my favorite. Kudos to the three adult actors who had to (I assume) mouth all their lines.

The Dance. It seems as if this scene, an extension not found in the book, is rather controversial. I didn’t consider it so at all. Harry and Hermione are friends, thrown together in intimate quarters on a mission that will almost certainly end in death. Who wouldn’t want a little twirl to ease the tension? Come ON, people.

The Dobby. You’d think that since I knew it was coming, Dobby’s death would be less heartbreaking. Um, NO. It was still devastating. Ditto for Hedwig, though that one seemed too fast for people to soak it in.

One of the people sitting near me had no idea what was coming—he must avoided spoilers and not have read the books. God bless him—it was like reading the book for the first time all over again. I wasn’t even tempted to spoil it for him, because I know how thrilling that initial realization can be.

(But to the couple in front of me who brought their four-year-old son? Those people need to be slapped upside the head. I mentally cursed them each time I heard “I have to go potty” in a little voice. Poor kid. Poor the rest of us.)

November 23, 2010

November 23, 2010

Remember This? Volume 16: Hand Turkeys

Little of my childhood remains with me, either in physical or mental form. What can I say? My mom’s an avid tosser and I have a terrible memory. I hope your parents documented your early years well, with videos and school papers and all that. I’m lucky that Milwaukee Public Schools for some reason compiled a folder of some of my best work and mailed it to the private school I graduated from in 2002. Without that sheaf of papers, I’d have little more than some report cards and the recollection of hand turkeys.

Yep, it’s Thanksgiving time again and children all over the land are making hand turkeys. Or, I hope they are. This is one of the few crafts that seems to be universally familiar with people from the Midwest, coasts, and everywhere in between. We learned about Pilgrims and Indians by tracing our fingers in crayon.

I was tickled when Sir Dr. Stephen Colbert, DFA referenced the hand turkey in a skit recently:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Joseph Gobbles Shoots Jay the Intern
http://www.colbertnation.com/
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

I must assume, therefore, the hand turkey goes back at least one generation (no offense to the Sir Dr.). Ideally, they were doing this back in colonial times, but with slate pencils or something. Coal sticks. Whatever it is children colored with before crayons.

I may not have children, but I’ve certainly spent time in nurseries, Sunday school classes, etc. passing on the knowledge of the hand turkey. It’s a simple craft, ‘tis true. But unlike most of what I see in Martha Stewart’s magazine, I can actually do it.

November 22, 2010

November 22, 2010

Towering Inferno

Like many of you, I get to enjoy a shortened workweek this week. Off Thursday and Friday, working from home on Wednesday. De-LIGHT-ful.

However, I learned last week that spending more time outside the office than isn’t just about increasing my personal happiness. It involves my safety from actual physical hazards. Fires, power outages, bedbugs, faulty alarms—all of these have plagued government buildings in the D.C. area of late. Yipee kay-ay, federal worker.

This is not to say that we feds are kickin’ it Chilean miner-style. There’s a very good chance I will suffer no more-lasting work injury than a papercut during my career. The facilities and security offices of my federal agency do a top-notch job with what they have.

But DAMN, amiright? It’s like an Irwin Allen movie up in here.

Perhaps you work for a small business, a large corporation, or Google. Places whose offices were built, well, during this century. Perhaps you think with awe what it would be like to work in a place like the White House, the Old Executive Office Building, or the Federal Reserve. I mean, the freaking Corridors of Power and all!

Here’s the reality: WH is only on blue and orange train lines, OEOB has been under scaffolding for years, and the Fed is guarded by a dude with a submachine gun who’s probably going to shoot first and ask questions later. (If you’re still thinking all this is cool, please, come join us.)

You just KNOW there are more chemicals in the water and asbestos in the air than are ideal. Add to that the law that appropriated funds (i.e. most of our money) can’t be used for food, drinks, or other personal comfort-y items, and it would seem to be rather dreary. Hence why the most satisfied of us does this for the mission and not for the perks. (Example: your Christmas party last year may have had booze and dancing. Mine had a small lunch THAT I HAD TO PAY FOR.)

I just hope Michael Bay is paying attention, because the tagline “One man…One agency…One collapsed roof!” would play really well around here.

November 20, 2010

November 18, 2010

November 18, 2010

Sail Away, Sail Away, Sail Away

My parents will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in January 2012. I’ve decided to eschew the traditional present (pearls—not so much fun for my dad) and get them a cruise to Alaska. That I also will go on, because heck if I’m going to drop $3000 without getting in on the action.

(Don’t worry; they’re not going to read this and find out. My parents are not your parents. They do not understand blogs and cell phones and the Facebook.)

I’d just begun researching cruise lines and best times to go and possible side trips when WHAM-O, the universe decided to make a very public disaster of one Carnival cruise. I’ve no doubt that a past version of me was planning a nice cruise in mid-1913 for HER parents on the White Star Line.

Though a lack of hot food and running toilets isn’t as dire as losing one’s life via iceberg…

Wait a minute. This is me and my parents we’re talking about here. If the buffet goes down, we’re thisclose to throwing ourselves overboard.

%$&*

See, I picked Alaska because a) it’s something my dad has mentioned wanting to do for years and b) you don’t look silly if you stay on the boat. Because believe me, my parents and I will be staying on the boat. So if you can’t enjoy it from the dock, it ain’t happening. I’m sure Cancun, the Caribbean, et al have lovely shopping, scuba diving, and other activities. But if you think I’m going to drag my parents around St. Thomas, you have another think coming. It’s going to be best for everybody if we stuff ourselves with shrimp while looking at snow-covered mountains.

(Okay, but secretly? I want to re-enact the game Yukon Trail. I want a picture of myself with the Skagway sign. I want to swindle a swindler by guessing which cup is hiding the pea. I want to buy sled dogs. I may be missing the point here.)

Problems I’ve run into so far, other than the whole Carnival catastrophe: These cruises run like June to September. Which I guess makes sense, since it’s Alaska’s warmest (least frigid?) time. However, considering that my parents were married on January 16, this is going to be one fraktastic build-up. Also, I have no idea whether any of us is going to get seasick. We don’t get car- or airsick as a rule, but just my luck we’ll spend the entire time barfing our guts out. This will severely hamper the time we can spend stuffing our faces with free shrimp.

But on the plus side? We get to go to CANADA. The one place that might be free of “Palin in 2012” mania.

Might.

November 17, 2010

Why act when you can sing?

Gywneth Paltrow has been making me feel even more inadequate than usual lately. It’s not enough that she’s incredibly talented, incredibly thin, and married to the lead singer of Coldplay—now she also SINGS?! It’s like when Angelina trotted out the humanitarian stuff: leave something for the rest of us!

(Though I can’t stay too mad at a woman who names her online newsletter “Goop,” I can remain moderately pissed at a woman who names her daughter “Apple.” So that’s a wash.)

I believe Gwyneth sang in a movie some time ago. I don’t remember what it was titled or about; someone get their helper monkey to look that up. However, I do remember that I was less than impressed. Now, though, the girl’s developed some skills. Did you see her on the Country Music Awards? (Of course you didn’t; I however suffered the TWO HOURS AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES of country music that aired before she sang.)



Not bad, right? I figure Chris helped her out with the guitar, but seriously. Not bad at all.

Now I understand she was on Glee as a sub who fills in for Mr. Shue. Included in her songs:



Um, damn. The girl can dance, too.

November 16, 2010

November 16, 2010

Uh Oh, Coco

As a fan of doing things legally whenever possible, I’ve been watching episodes of Conan on TBS.com. Shows are posted the day after they air, both full episodes and clips categorized by type (monologues, interviews, music, etc.). It would appear to be a beautiful system for those of us without even the basickest of basic cable.

Then you try to actually use the TBS.com player and you realize you’re in for a world of hurt. You thought NBC.com had a sucky player? Hulu pisses you off? Just. You. Wait.

My peeviest peeve is the fact that the full episodes are actually split up into many clips, each of which resets the window. You can’t full screen at the beginning of the show, sit back, and enjoy. Rather, you must get off your couch every three minutes and re-full screen. TBS, check it.

Also less-than optimal: the clip categorization. I mean, for someone who wants to watch just monologues, or just musical guests, it’s probably fabulous. But I daresay most of us would rather watch a mélange of guests and bits. Bringing back the “variety” in “variety programming.” TBS, check it.

This sounds awfully complainy, I realize. I’m incredibly thankful that the show gets posted online at all, saving me from resorting to more nefarious ends to get my daily dose of Coco.

[Editor's Note: Full episodes of Conan are also posted on Fancast.com. The author gratefully no longer uses TBS.com to get her Coco on.]

November 15, 2010

November 15, 2010

Someone’s in the Kitchen

This past weekend, I attended my third Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show. Held annually in Washington, D.C., it’s a chance for specialty vendors to showcase their food, cooking, and other wares. Often accompanied by free samples. So, really, it’s a day to nosh on cheese and chocolate, aka The Best Day Ever.

The key is getting there early. When you arrive early, the floor looks like this:

When you don’t arrive early, the floor looks like this:

Seriously. Go early. Buy your tickets in advance, too. Anything you can do to get your butt on the floor as soon as possible.

What do you do once you’re there? I’m so glad you asked. Attendees wile away the hours with three main tracks: celebrity appearances (which cost extra and are scrupulously guarded), vendor booths, and workshops.

Little-known fact: “Don’t tase me, bro” was preceded by “I just want to see Paula Deen.”

The D--- in a Box people have obviously branched out.

Bingo!

I pooped out after 6 hours, unfortunately. Despite several visits to the McCafe booth.

Good thing I’d gotten my fill of cheese.

My favorite innovation this year was the ginger beer. That stuff was amazing. Not your father’s ginger ale.

My second favorite was the rum cake. So moist, it had to have been 60% butter. At least.

Did I feel a little sick afterwards from all the sugar and fat consumption? Sure did. Was it totally worth it? Sure was.

November 10, 2010

November 10, 2010

New Boy in the Neighborhood

All right, so I’m poking around Hulu recently. Hulu, a site I love because it provides a legal conduit for me to partake of the media I so dearly love. It’s like the 21st Amendment, or Las Vegas. If I didn’t get my fix on Hulu, I would (and have) (and do) find it elsewhere.

But anyillegaldownloading, Hulu offers recommendations based on the things you watch and subscribe to. These almost always make brilliant sense, and come with a little explanation of the reasoning.

For example, Hulu thinks I would like the show Monk, because I subscribe to Castle. Both are about crime solvers, both have a quirky sense of humor…it’s all good. Further, Hulu tells you have many people who got the same recommendation agree. (In this case, 77%--I really need to give Monk a shot.)

It’s a great system. Until it isn’t.

I know there are a few 25-29 year old females out there. So, ladies: seriously? Plus, what sort of reasoning basis is that? It’s not like I subscribe to “Joanie Loves Chachi” or anything. The fact that there’s no agreement percentage makes me think this is just Hulu’s way of screwing with me.

Unless it knows how much of a control freak I am?

Or that my favorite Scrubs episode involves the a cappella group practicing the Charles in Charge theme song?

Dear lord, maybe this thing is smarter than I thought.

November 9, 2010

November 9, 2010

Things I’ve Read: My Life in France / Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession

I inadvertently pulled a “Julie & Julia” last week: I read Julia Child’s My Life in France followed immediately by Julie Powell’s Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession. I’d like to attribute this clever feat to subconscious echoes of the film I saw last year, or perhaps the ethos of joie de manger that is my everyday life, but I think we have to chalk this one up to complete randomness. In my books (whoa, no pun intended), Julie Powell is fated to be tied to Julia Child.

My Life in France was a birthday present from friend-of-blog Hope. (Consider: Her gift encompassed food and reading. Yea, how verily she knoweth me.) The book is Julia Child’s autobiography, as told to and written by her nephew. You could say this book is the basis of the “Julia” half of that film, but it’s an incredibly detailed picture whereas the film was quick and glossy. Child discusses her marriage, living situations, and career in glorious (and sometimes gruesome) detail. Since Paul Child spent his career in government, he and Julia both were subject to the whims of politics. (As someone who herself has dodged a fair number of whims, let me attest that, ahem, these bitches is crazy.)

Perhaps you only ever knew Julia Child as a TV chef. True, ‘twas the culmination of her life’s work. But that was really the third act of her career. First, she learned to cook. Then, she wrote about cooking. Only after did she show people how to bone a duck in Technicolor. Honestly, I found the “writing” phase the most fascinating to read about. Creating the first-of-its-kind French cookbook for American audiences involved a lot more than converting recipes from metric. Throw in Julia’s obsessive attention to detail—it wasn’t enough for her to get it right; she wanted to figure out all the ways to get it wrong and why they didn’t work—and you can’t help but wonder how she didn’t impale herself on that chef’s knife.

Cleaving, on the other hand, is the second book from Julie Powell, who famously cooked all of Julia’s recipes whilst blogging the process. Now, say what you will (it’s okay; I’m about to), but the portrayal of Julie Powell in that movie was, well, I believe goshdarncute is the exact word. So when you find out that Julia Child didn’t care for Powell’s project, you’re all “WTF? She’s freaking adorable!” Yeah, not so much. I present as evidence this book.
In real life, Powell and her husband are having marital issues. Serious ones. That involve torrid affairs on both sides, and which are described in squirm-inducing detail. To distract herself from the slow crash and burn of her marriage, Powell decides to apprentice as a butcher.

(If you answered “What. The. $%&*?” I think that you’re finally coming around to Julia Child’s side of the table.)

Powell’s obviously a fan of meat—she spends quite a bit of time discussing the different cuts and techniques. She throws in some recipes, as well, all of which I’m sure are delicious. (I will never know for sure because I prefer to get my meat pre-formed and ideally pre-cooked.) Even the diehards should know, though, that butchering is a lot more than slicing and shredding. Pigs are killed. Lambs are killed. Powell eats a lot of freaky stuff in this book, people. It’s like a horrifying, horrifying version of Charlotte’s Web. And that’s coming from me. Think about it.

Bottom line, I think My Life in France has a lot going for it. French living, the comedy of bad apartments, disagreements between writers, etc. It’s a great mélange. Cleaving, though, is best left for those seriously interested in butchering or adultery.

November 8, 2010

November 8, 2010

In My Opinion: The Social Network

While I usually give movies a week or two to sink in before I recap them for you, I’m going to go ahead and rashly review The Social Network mere hours after I’ve seen it. There’s even a method to this madness: it seems to me that the founding of Facebook was all about being rash.

The vast majority of you are already intimately familiar with Facebook and are aware that this film presents the story of its creation in Rashomon-style multi-perspective flashbacks. The best part of this film isn’t wondering who’s right, who’s the bad guy, or anything like that. Nah, what this film really does is explore the messy world of intellectual property.

Because, c’mon, you’re asking me to believe that a guy who looks like this…

...both went to Harvard and had trouble getting a date? NOT SO MUCH.

So obviously, we’ve left the world of hand-to-heart verisimilitude and have wandered instead into idealized history. Fine by me. What do we know?

We know that Mark Zuckerberg was a genius at computer programming but an idiot at understanding people. (I’ve dated enough computer science majors to know that it’s a problem with the breed.)

We know that the Winklevoss twins (and God bless a family whose surname is crazier than mine) had an idea for a social networking website while attending Harvard.

We know that the Winklevosses asked Mark to help with the website.

We know that shortly afterward, Mark created a social networking site not with the Winklevosses, but with his best friend Eduardo Guerin.

We know that Sean Parker, the creator of Napster, then became involved.

We know that Guerin then got cut out.

We know that both the Winklevosses and Guerin sued Zuckerberg. Both reached settlement deals.

But who was right? Whose idea was Facebook, anyway? Who should be getting the money, and the credit, and the fame that spews from it’s every blue-and-white page? How much of what is presented in this movie as history even happened? Since non-disclosure agreements were signed, we will never know.

Aaron Sorkin’s script performed by Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, et al may not be the exact truth. But good GRIEF, it’s fantastic. If only every event could be thus retold.

November 4, 2010

November 4, 2010

Liberty, Woo

As you may have done, I voted this week. Despite caring 200000% more about the Wisconsin races than I ever will about those of the Old Dominion, my apparently permanent Virginia residency and something called “the law” mean I can no longer vote a straight Cheesehead ticket.

Now, keep in mind that live, Election Day voting is a relatively new thing for me. See, Milwaukee allows no-excuse absentee voting. With the result that I hadn’t set foot in an actual voting booth for many moons. Then I moved to Virginia, got myself a li’l voter card, and discovered that getting an absentee ballot here requires little less than two DNA samples and a sacrifice to the ghost of Robert E. Lee. (YOU may think I'm kidding. The two goats I slaughtered, on the other hand, know better.)

My first Virginia vote was last fall, in the gubernatorial race. (And OHDEARLORD, remember that debacle?) For some reason, we elect our executive in off-years, unlike pretty much the entire rest of the country. I swear, this state picked the wrong side in the Civil War and it all went downhill from there.

This year, my ballot had just one house race and three referenda. Still, civic duty and all that.

When I arrived at the polling place, an elementary school, 30 minutes before closing, there was a line out the freaking door. Now, in any other circumstance, I would have been pissed. Incredibly pissed. Willing-to-stab-a-stranger-to-skip pissed. But this time? I was thrilled. Lack of interesting contests in our district be damned! We were getting our VOTE on!

When I recognized multiple fellow bus riders from my morning and/or evening commutes, I had my first hand-to-heart feelings of community. Like I belonged. Something I haven’t felt since the last Wisconsin State Fair. (I suspect that a good Wisconsin accent will thrill my soul to the end of time. It’s in the DNA.)

So not to get all sappy and whatnot, but it was good. Really good.

Ironically, none of my choices ended up winning. At least I got a sticker.

November 3, 2010

November 3, 2010

The Lone Bagel

While I’m appreciative of a good bit o’ distance between parental units and their offspring, having my mom nearby has its perks. Namely, free food. (Pretend that I talked about other stuff first, like the ability to do things together or something.) Perhaps your parents sent care packages in college filled with cookies and granola bars and stuff. Same sort of deal. Except much more random. To wit:

All right, let’s break it down. Starting at the lower left, we have a bagel. Just one. A lone bagel.

At the upper left, we have cream cheese. To go with the lone bagel, ostensibly, though I am not against eating that creamy goodness right out of the tub.

We move on to a dinner roll. Just one. A lone dinner roll.

Now, I would say that my mom believes bread products should be segregated like rabbits—get two together and they just multiply out of control. (Sidebar: How cool would it be if food really DID do that?!) But then we finish this bag of random food with two waffles I know you can’t tell, but there are two. Blueberry. Delicious. My mom’s waffle maker definitely kicks Eggo’s butt.

(Yeah, despite having less counter space than the typical bathroom in her kitchen, my mom has a waffle maker. And a George Foreman grill, multiple crock pots, a rice pot, and other kitchen appliances. Unpacking all that was a really FUN experience for me.)

Since this picture was taken, I have also received chicken (raw—I microwaved it, though), fried rice, and bananas. Is it too much to ask for a normal platter of brownies or something?

November 2, 2010

November 2, 2010

In My Opinion: The Town

Contrary to popular belief, what drew me to The Town was not the presence of Jon Hamm, Ben Affleck, or Boston. Rather, it was the trailer’s bank robbers dressed as nuns with horror masks that did it. We all love heists, and we all love the clergy, so why WOULDN’T you mix the two?

Per the film, Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood produces more criminals per capita than, like, anywhere else in the known universe. Aliens fear it. The Town follows four such thugs: Doug MacRay (played by Ben Affleck), Jem Coughlin (played by Jeremy Renner), and…two other guys played by less-famous people. MacRay is the leader of the bunch, with Coughlin his crazy-as-hell second in command.

The film opens with the gang knocking over an armored car at a bank. Events conspire that lead MacRay to fall for the bank manager while simultaneously ensuring she doesn’t give the gang up to the fuzz. (Said fuzz, btw, is played by Jon Hamm in living “Dammit Chloe!” Technicolor.) His old girlfriend, a blond floozy played by Blake Lively (in a very anti-Serena Van Der Woodsen role), is not thrilled about this development.

MacRay finally decides to pull one last heist, at Fenway Park. (I’m telling you, it was very definitely a Boston film in the way I’d hoped Mystic River would be.) After this, he tells himself, he’s grabbing the girl and getting out of the game.

Things, of course, go terribly wrong.

Though I’ve spoken almost solely of plot so far, this film is really more of a character study. Coughlin is a plane crash waiting to happen. And when it does happen, it’s an absolutely captivating flame-out. I’ve added The Hurt Locker to my list just so I can see more Jeremy Renner intensity.

Affleck’s days of Daredevil are gone, and I can’t say I’m sorry to see them go. As fun as he was playing suave eye candy in Paycheck and such, he’s so much better in intense dramatic roles. There are plenty of bland boys out there to be shirtless vampires and such. Who knew Captain Rafe McCawley had it in him, amiright?

Finally, if you’ve ever been to, wanted to visit, or lived in Boston, you must see this film. The city and its culture are as present a character as any of the speaking parts.

November 1, 2010

November 1, 2010

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

As you know, I was unable to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear this past weekend. TheBoy and I did, however, watch it on TV. Well, most of it, because I fell asleep with about 45 minutes to go. (Shutup, I had a big lunch.)

Luckily for all of us, YouTube user cptkou posted these excellent videos of his experience getting to, standing at, and departing from said rally.