Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Your Atlas Shrugged Study Guide

Monday, March 21st, 2011

By now, if you’re going to take my advice and read Atlas Shrugged in some form before the movie comes out, and you haven’t gotten started yet, I’m pretty sure you’re screwed. The movie is only about the first part out of three, and I read all three parts in the course of about four or five months, so this is somewhat consistent with my rate.

If you have started Part One and need some direction, this summary is for you. These are the ten points I expect to see in the movie — bearing in mind there are other people who have seen the screenings, and I am not one of them. So this is just an educated guess. The pieces I’m most certain are going to be there, appear first.

I think it’s mostly spoiler-free.

Now if you haven’t started it yet and would like to, you might get some value out of it too. Start here — then grab hold of the Cliff’s Notes.

1. “Who Is John Galt?” is a piece of slang people use in this made-up future, to express bewilderment, resignation or despair. It means: We’re not going to come to a resolution on this so let’s change the subject. It roughly translates to “oh well, whaddya gonna do?” Contrary to what you might expect, each and every word is deliberately chosen, although nobody who uses the phrase understands the meaning. This isn’t explained until well after the end of Part One.

2. Heroes. An Atlas Shrugged hero is an Ayn Rand hero, and Ayn Rand heroes possess certain characteristics. By choice, they are entirely disconnected from the eddies that reverberate through human social structures; they are entirely unresponsive to scorn, scolding, humiliation, insults, bickering, backtalk, disrespect, contempt, ridicule…there is only one personal slight that will get their cackles up, and that is the theft of their property. They make commitments very sparingly, but are religious about keeping them. The first thing they worry about, with any decision they make, is the eventual result. The last thing they worry about is whether someone else approves of it. If you’d like to flesh this point out without putting in a huge time commitment, maybe you’d be up for renting The Fountainhead with Gary Cooper.

3. Villains. Ayn Rand villains also possess certain characteristics. They are usually emotional, shrill, impetuous and unstable. The exceptions to this tend to wield authority over large organizations, which will inevitably crumble into nothingness simultaneous with their calm, cool personas. They are socially well connected because they worry constantly about being popular. But they’re completely two-faced so their abundant connections don’t say anything for their character. They whine a lot about fairness and blame. Nothing is ever their fault.

4. Companies. Atlas Shrugged is a story of companies as well as of people, and companies can be good & bad just like people. In this story, a company that is good is named after a person. A company that is bad is not. Good companies meet their deadlines reliably and bad companies do not. The point is that when commerce depends on delivery of a product or service, and the delivery isn’t made, there are multiple levels of suffering that ensue, directly caused by the commerce that is not taking place. You’ll also notice a lot of the bad companies are partially or completely invested in the public sector.

5. Profit. You’re going to find an Atlas Shrugged hero shows a certain fidelity to it. Early in the book there is an exchange between two people who manage a railroad company; it is a family-owned company and this is the brother, and sister who have inherited it. The argument is about canceling a contract with a steel company that has failed to deliver. The sister says the time has come to cancel because according to the terms of the contract, they have the right to do it and they need to move to a steel company that can make delivery. The brother is against this, not for reasons having to do with the continuing survival of the railroad company, but because he’s concerned about giving the unreliable steel company a “chance.”

6. Looters and Moochers. A moocher is someone who lives off the work of others without consent. A looter is someone with direct or indirect control over the state rules, who uses that control to direct resources to the moochers in exchange for their support, which is usually provided in the form of votes. When looters and moochers decide things, they end up making damn sure nobody else can decide anything at all. And that’s a problem because neither one produces anything of value to anybody else.

7. The Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule. Legislation that is passed in Atlas Shrugged, is exaggerated caricature of legislation in real life that was most offensive to Ayn Rand, meaning legislation that is most statist. The commonality is that the people who know the least about how business really works, are going to be the ones who appreciate the positive cosmetic attributes of the legislation but the legislation will ultimately have a toxic effect on commerce and therefore on people. The Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog rule effectively outlaws competition; it says for any market there is to be served, one and only one company will be in charge of servicing it. After Part One this nonsense is going to get much worse.

8. Technology. You’re seeing two technological innovations here that are just starting to come into existence, and these are “maguffins”; they exist not only to complete plot points to drive the story, but also to define the characters as we see the reactions people show as these things are pursued. The two innovations are 1) an artificial metal alloy that doesn’t melt below four thousand degrees, and 2) an electric motor that draws its power from the static charge in the air. The villains place absolutely no value on these things at all, in fact they make arrangements to spend money on stopping these new things from becoming available. Naturally, they plan to spend this money out of what was forcibly seized from other people.

9. Thought. There is a persistent theme playing out that Atlas Shrugged villains are very casual about their thinking, which allows them to simply borrow thoughts from other people, because they don’t have any skin in the game — their standard of living, or lack thereof, is never directly connected to whether or not they have reached a correct decision about something. Because of this, their ability to think clearly has become atrophied over time. The only time they plan ahead is when they try to figure out how to preserve and expand their power. Atlas Shrugged heroes, on the other hand, profit personally and suffer personally according to the decisions they make, in all things. There is a scene where just a few of them oversee the construction of a new railway and then drive a locomotive over it at full speed. The whole point to this scene is that when your very life depends on getting all the answers right, it changes the way you look at the world.

10. Aristotle. The three parts of Atlas Shrugged are named after his Three Laws of Thought. If you don’t have time to read Atlas Shrugged before the movie comes out, read up on those three laws. The point is this: If people in a society “make” money without producing anything of value, what ultimately is going to start happening is that the most influential and far-reaching decisions are going to be made by people who disregard Aristotle’s rules of thought. And when that happens, everyone who lives in that society is going to pay a very high price for it. The unavoidable end result is that since such a society will not maintain the incentives to create wealth as quickly as it is being consumed, the very existence of each individual inside will be forfeit. So this is really a decision-point, a crossroads between life and death.

Inception

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Regarding that final shot: No, the damn thing didn’t tip over after the camera clicked off, it kept spinning forever. How could it not? Weren’t you paying a lick of attention?

I was not very excited about this thing at all. The Philip K. Dick “what is reality?” meme is overrated, unhealthy and obsessive-compulsive. And I grow weary of Mister Puppy Face trying to act all big-n-bad. I don’t think it’s a good fit.

But the story was great. No, better than great; it was completely awesome. Not entirely original, but it was an original take on something that’s been done before in all the simpler ways. The designated-nerdy-guy got to engage in fisticuffs with nameless-faceless-cannon-fodder bad guys, just like the sexy action hero guys get to do all the time, and he got to do some cool, inventive, resourceful stuff. Really, there was a demanding role for everybody to play. Puppy-Face actually solved barely more problems than the ones he created. Kind of the opposite of a Nicholas Cage National Treasure installment.

Really, the only wimp in the story was the rich-pretty-white-boy. But that’s a constant.

I would go so far as to say, this may be where Hollywood is forced to admit smart individuals do work far superior to the product of any committee. Which they aren’t gonna like, but there ya go. This was Bruce Nolan’s brainchild from stem to stern, so I’m told. It certainly does show someone cared. And in the end, isn’t that what it takes to make a good film? Just a reasonable quantity of give-a-damn. This show has lots of give-a-damn.

Three and a half stars out of four, I’d say. Once a film reaches four, I have to go to Amazon and order it. I’m a little on the fence with this one on that. Maybe I’ll wait until it gets to $9.99 or something.

One complaint, and it’s a complaint I have about lots of other movies lately. In recent years, on my way out of the theater I’m noticing my initial review — even with the movies I happen to like — distills down into three words:

“Needs More Tits.”

Sad to say, it fits here. Five, or six, or seven cutie-pie guys who look better than I do. Who needs this? And then there’s a cutie pixie chick running around with all her clothes on…nice face, but useless. And then the wife-or-whatever, who is also aesthetically pleasing in the face, slightly closer to me in age, but is also keeping all her clothes on.

People in the movies, should be showing at least more skin than the people waiting in line with me. Isn’t that reasonable? Have you seen some of those body parts? Yeesh. Oh yeah, and just to clarify I’m referring to the chicks. We don’t need more shirtless guys in the movies. I have more than a passing thought that the awful New Moon saga is what’s caused the problem.

Total Recall had that mutant lady with the three boobies, remember that? Whatever happened to boobage?

We were choosing between this one, and something called “Takers“. I cast the final vote, because Takers seemed to have just more of what I was complaining about. I did some research and found out it was just Lieutenant Uhura surrounded by more cutie-pie guys who are better looking than I am. So we went to watch Puppy Face. The final situation was the same, Need More Boobage, but at least the story was good and strong, and we got some enjoyment out of that.

Despicable Me

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

I liked it a lot. But when my girlfriend sent me a text message asking how it was, I had to reply that I liked it just as much as The Pacifier, Big Momma’s House, The Spy Next Door and Tooth Fairy. That would be my one reservation against it; creativity is being short-changed again.

Despicable MeSomething is happening to the Doofus Dad movie; it is transforming into the Doofus Stepdad movie. The loner is talented in his own way, fun to watch, and selfish. An “instant family” happens along and hijinks ensue.

There is much more, because this genre is becoming extravagant, complicated and rigid. Something is happening to the children — or rather, to the configuration of children. It is solidifying. Three is becoming a popular number. The oldest is a girl, and there’s a side subplot wrapped up in here because the oldest is coping with the most daunting abandonment issues and she comes ’round last to the idea that New Daddy might be a cool guy. The middle child is more of an incorporation of the entire set, sort of a “straight man.” This could be a male, it really isn’t that important. And then the baby of the family is just plain adorable.

Maybe the three are supposed to be representing something from Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego?

As far as events, well we have New Daddy meeting up with adorable moppets while doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. This juxtaposition, seemingly innocent at first, brings on trouble and then a separation. The story of the separation is intertwined with some performance the little tykes are putting on, and they’ll be just devastated if New Daddy doesn’t show up to watch it. The separation happens before, during or after the performance…to which New Daddy is on time, late, or doesn’t show at all.

So the drama involving the performance takes on all kinds of forms, but it’s gotta be in there somewhere. And that means New Daddy’s attendance has to be an open question.

Be that as it may, it is also a constant that New Daddy’s life seems to be incompatible with the moppets, and/or he does something abysmally stupid that shows his selfish streak. The kids all decide the New Daddy sucks, especially the oldest one (the youngest accepts this only reluctantly or not at all). New Daddy is mad at himself and lonely. But he continues on with his mission, and there’s some madcap adventure at the end during which they’re all pushed back into each other’s arms while the adrenaline is pumping hard, and at the absolute climax the oldest one has to make a choice-that-isn’t-a-choice, finally overcoming her distrust and bonding with New Daddy.

The villain is a complete jackass. He isn’t killed, just badly humiliated. Oh, and also he kidnapped the kids about halfway through. That’s a given. New Daddy has to scowl at the camera and intone something to the effect that nobody but nobody messes with his kids!

Sorry, did I just review this movie or a whole bunch of other ones? I sorta lost track.

We need a word for this. “Trope” doesn’t do it, because a trope is a character trope or a plot trope or a theme trope — this is all three. Let’s call it a “template.” The “How I Became A Family Man” template. Because nobody can pay attention to a story that takes place across nine months anymore.

So now you know what the template is. This one implemented it extremely well. I’d like to see the template retired for good…but since it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, if you have to see one this is probably as good as any.

What makes it superior? The jokes that are aimed at the grown-ups are funnier than usual.

Also, it’s a little tougher for me to beat up on it. The constant in the “How I Became a Family Man” template, and in the Doofus-Dad template as well, is that whatever the father figure is doing when the kids are not, around he needs to stop doing right now. He needs to take on a new life that involves having the kids up his butt all the time, since Lord knows the women have been making do with that for thousands of years. So he needs to cease & desist all non-kid things. Even if that’s working at a job to provide for the family.

In this one, they went out of their way to make the non-kid activity bad stuff. Indeed, the entire project seems to be built around this objective. New Daddy has to stop doing his bad stuff. This is a message to little kids I can support. Although, at the end of the movie, it remains an open question what the world they’re all going to live on…but…that’s the part where you have to say hey, it’s a kid’s movie, don’t sweat the details.

New Moon

Monday, July 5th, 2010

I had to turn to my lady halfway through this vomit projectile of a movie, and let her know how awesome she was for renting this tripe from Netflix so I could sit with her and surf the innerwebs while waiting for Bella to do her next stupid unnecessary suicidal thing.

And I can’t even begin to imagine how miserable life must be for those poor pathetic slobs who get dragged off to this nonsense in a theater. My heart goes out to them if they’re my worst enemies. Sweet Jesus, the popcorn-and-piss-break I’d take if my girlfriend was dumb enough to do that. Oh my goodness, what is that. A video game? I should try it out.

Can’t believe my eyes. Did I really see the following just mounted on a huge conveyor belt and put on an endless loop?

1. Bella does something dumb and almost gets killed.
2. Edward or Jacob leap into action and save her.
3. The camera shows how much Edward cares about Bella because his eyebrows stick out and his lips look extra pouty.
4. The camera shows how much Jacob cares about Bella because his eyebrows stick out and his lips look extra pouty.
5. Go back to #1 and do it all over again.

Bella’s Dad eventually grounds her for the rest of her life. That makes him the most sensible character, although it has not escaped my notice that I’m not really supposed to see him that way.

The human-to-animal transformations are mildly intriguing, but the entire film franchise has been built around just those, and not cleverly. There are no explosions. Bella never shows her tits or anything else. Well Jacob manages to lose articles of clothing all over the place. Nobody else does.

I am absolutely flabbergasted at how many of the Things I Never Want To See In Movies Ever Again that this bit of effluence managed to hit. I’m thinking perhaps I made a mistake putting it up. Someone must have seen it. I first became aware of it when they nonchalantly snagged #38. They hit #1, #2, half of #3, they probably had #8 and I missed it, and #9…oh, it was one long lurk-fest of #9.

This is a form of pollution, that’s what it is.

Attention all high-drama people: Could you please cease and desist from watching movies for as many years as it takes for the movies to not be custom-made for your own personal amusement anymore. It would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Tighty Righty Bloggers Choose Favorite Movies

Friday, March 5th, 2010

That would be the right-wing nutjobs like Yours Truly. I’m glad Hawkins does stuff like this now and then. It’s always interesting to see how one’s individual contributions stack up with, and contrast against, the prevailing viewpoint.

18. The Terminator: 4 (1984)
18. The Patriot: 4 (2000)
18. The Dark Knight: 4 (2008)
18. Serenity: 4 (2005)
18. Saving Private Ryan: 4 (1998)
18. On the Waterfront: 4 (1954)
18. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: 4 (2003)
18. Groundhog Day: 4 (1993)
18. Blazing Saddles: 4 (1974)
18. Animal House: 4 (1978)
18. 300: 4 (2007)
13. Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back: 5 (1980)
13. Schindler’s List: 5 (1993)
13. Patton: 5 (1970)
13. Monty Python and the Holy Grail: 5 (1975)
13. Gone with the Wind: 5 (1939)
8. The Godfather II: 6 (1974)
8. Jaws: 6 (1975)
8. Raiders of the Lost Ark: 6 (1981)
8. Pulp Fiction: 6 (1994)
8. Braveheart: 6 (1995)
6. The Shawshank Redemption: 7 (1994)
6. The Princess Bride: 7 (1987)
5. The Incredibles: 8 (2004)
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: 9 (2001)
3. Star Wars: 11 (1977)
2. Casablanca: 13 (1942)
1. The Godfather: 14 (1972)

I recall Maddox put up a page years ago called Five Shitty Movies Everybody Loves. It has not aged well. Braveheart, for example, made both his list and the Hawkins list…along with mine (below). Sum of All Fears? Last Samurai?

Top Gun, on the other hand. I think one day Maddox was sitting around doing whatever it is he does…Top Gun came on that Turner channel that likes to hack decent movies up into pieces, and Maddox thought Wow that sure is a shitty movie and there sure are a lot of people who love it all to pieces. I’ll bet I can find four more just like it. Well, the other four don’t quite fit. Braveheart has a lot of elements that make it quite a great movie, that went sailing over Maddox’s head, Karate Kid isn’t that bad, and the other three have tumbled down the memory hole as they deserved to.

Anyway, I’ve often thought I should start a list like that.

It might seem a tad brutal to put Lord of the Rings in there. But I grow weary of the Peter Jackson monotony. Same ol’ story…you can’t trash this, it’s great film making. And it always is. Jackson is an exceptionally talented fellow. Just answer me this: How many times have you put that thing back in the DVD player and spent an evening in front of it? Yeah, I thought so.

Know why that is? Because everything consumes roughly five times as much of your evening as it justifies. The “You Shall Not Pass” scene? Thirty seconds worth of story, maybe. Forty if you count the hobbits crying at the end. But no. It takes longer to watch Gandalf’s great fall, than it takes for my kid to do a math problem when he doesn’t feel like doing it. Almost. When the whole movie grinds on like that, so the entire trilogy takes nine hours, I lose patience. What happens in just six hours of the old Star Wars movies? Just about everything that can be flipped around, at some point, is. What happens in six hours of Godfather movies? Ditto. These guys took a ring to a volcano and tossed it in. Yawn.

Yeah, I need to start a list like that someday.

Anyway. Here’s the list I submitted of the movies I liked. We were asked for ten, in no particular order, and I took the liberty of grouping some of them together. It seemed to me to make sense:

The Godfather I & II
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Rob Roy
From Russia With Love
Casino Royale
The Patriot
Braveheart
Die Hard
Jaws
Star Wars: ANH & TESB

I thought after I hit “send” that two movies, both by Martin Campbell, really deserved to make the cut: Goldeneye and The Mask of Zorro. Also, Rocky, the first one, maybe.

I didn’t even think to put Patton in there until I saw the final. Pretty good choice. Terminator? I dunno. It is a fine piece of work, a fun flick. But as “list” material, it leaves me cold because you don’t pick up any deeper meaning from it, until you analyze it and by the time you analyze it you quickly pass the point where the story no longer makes any sense whatsoever. (The same problem hangs around the neck of Cameron‘s latest, lucrative as it may be.) It seems to me “just for fun” vehicles belong on a different list. You’d have to skip over all kinds of wonderful, meaningful, thoughtful works like The Incredibles before you got to something like Terminator.

“When everybody is special, then nobody is.” They worked that in twice without getting preachy about it. Strong story, lovable characters, unforgettable villain, subtle, thought-provoking message. Perhaps “movies with exactly the right balance” would be another worthy list.

Update: I’ll just plant this as a seed in the smartphone, see if it sprouts into something. A list of movie lists.

1. Movies I would like to take with me to a deserted island.
2. Movies that, when I was young and available, got me some action and will probably work for you too.
3. Movies with a simple and powerful message.
4. Culturally significant movies.
5. Great movies made great by their characters and not by their stories.
6. Great movies made great by their acting and directing and not by their characters or stories.
7. Movie tropes, thoroughly worn out and ground into the dirt, given a brand new lease on life through brilliant execution.
8. “He’s the traitor” moments I absolutely, positively did not see coming.
9. “Dragon” moments (physical contests between hero and bad guy’s second-in-command) that redeemed the entire movie.
10. Sequels better than the original.
11. Movies that are really two movies.
12. Really, really, really bad moments for going out to get popcorn.

D’JEver Notice? LI

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Was just noticing in the genre of scary ghost movies that also happen to be mysteries, when the time comes to sit down in front of Google or a microfiche reader at the library and figure out what’s going on, for some reason that’s the chick’s job.

Not sure if that’s because it’s Hollywood lack-of-creativity laziness, or our own preconceived notions of male & female roles. It’s clear to me this observation of mine needs some work. If “figure out what’s going on” means digging up a grave, of course, that’s the dude’s job and not the chick’s job. In the National Treasure movies, of course, Nicholas Cage figures out everything while everyone else just stands around and watches him. Makes you wonder what in the hell everybody else is doing there.

But looking things up in the innerwebs, is the chick’s job. Would it not work, the other way? Is Hollywood playing to female sensibilities? Or to ours? We need something pleasing to watch? Another thing: These ladies who are so smart they can finally figure out what ancient spirit is making the house make all these funny noises, cannot read from their Google search results without saying the words out loud. Perhaps the answer to my question is tied up in this? The audience is so stupid, they need to have the words read to them…and if a male actor does that, he just looks like a dork. If a flatbelly hottie is doing that, we’re inclined to stare at her moving lips and entertain lascivious thoughts. While she huskily intones the text on her search result screen.

Dudes can certainly follow trails of clues. Gregory Peck was more than watchable in The Omen…although the last half hour of that movie suffered from a serious case of underdose in the boobage-and-other-feminine-appeal department. David Warner’s decapitated head flying through the air more than adequately compensated for this, and we were compelled to watch Peck continue to follow the trail of clues.

Now that I think on it, I struggle to recall an image of any sexy type of guy, ever using a computer, for any purpose, in any movie, anywhere. I suppose the ladies are supposed to find Mr. Phillippe captivating…but does this turkey count? Really?

Maybe male people using computers, in general, just aren’t very appealing. Hmmmmmmm………

Cat Juggling

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Hehehe. Yeah, you can’t make this movie nowadays.

Thanks for the memory, Andy.

How Avatar Should Have Ended

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Ten Awesome Villains From Literature and Screen

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

…mostly from screen, and the books are by Ayn Rand. No other writer of fiction, to my knowledge, had ever performed such a thorough job of identifying deleterious human traits in real life, and pouring out her soul onto the pages to showcase her antipathy toward them.

Since “awesomeness” here has to do with motivation, there are no Dragons here, only BigBads. BigBads plan, Dragons execute. There really isn’t much for the Dragon to do; just be sinister, memorable, scary, ruthless, chillingly competent in doing destructive things, and a little bit creepy. The BigBad assembles the story. And this is a science unto itself.

If it’s done right, a whole new type of BigBad is created. What follows is a roster of the exclusive club of guys who managed to ascend to that lofty height of badness. Rather odd that I couldn’t think of any gals.

So have a seat, Darth. This is all about the guy at the top.

1. Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers (I don’t remember which one)

I think it was Tim Curry in that otherwise-lackluster version from the nineties (although Charlton Heston’s version was far superior). There was this creepy scene in which the Cardinal brags, in private company, about being an atheist. Think about this: Using religion to control an entire country through its monarch, and privately, disbelieving. What a wonderful piece of bad-guy-definition, I still wonder if the filmmakers understood what they were doing.

2. Ellsworth Toohey in The Fountainhead

Enabler with a capital E. Everyone in proximity to him suffers and doesn’t see it happening. The film version didn’t quite capture this, and perhaps couldn’t have.

3. Robert Stadler in Atlas Shrugged

The successor to The Fountainhead did a fantastic job of “busting out” Toohey’s character into a whole bunch of people, each of which captured just a piece of the nastiness. Stadler’s role is one of Fallen Angel amongst the men of the mind: He used his individual gifts and intellect to figure out what was going on, and he figured out what was going on to figure out how his bread was buttered. So he sided with the looters. He used his intellect to determine his destiny, threw his lot in with those who would deny all others that very ability, and as a consequence, ultimately failed at this.

4. Noah Cross in Chinatown

“Reprehensible prick” doesn’t quite capture it, and is an insult to reprehensible pricks.

5. Jerome Lundegaard in Fargo

The “kinda sorta bad guy” who never really wanted any rough stuff to happen, has been a tired stock character at least since cheeseball 1970′s prime-time action teevee shows like “Charlie’s Angels,” to name just one example. Here it’s given a shot in the arm. He is, quite clearly, the architect of events, and his incompetence that allows them to spiral out of control is linked to his failure to understand the complexity of people. He somehow thinks he’s the only one on the planet capable of having a hidden agenda, and this is where everything starts to go sideways. Know anyone like this?

6. James Graham, Earl of Montrose, in Rob Roy

Lundegaard’s next step up. He knows he’s been snookered by someone; he’s figured out it is not Rob Roy, but his own subordinates Killearn and Cunningham who are up to shenanigans (William Hurt’s performance leaves a fantastic piece of ambiguity here, just ever-so-slight); and you can tell that, to whatever extent he’s figured out what’s going on, he just doesn’t give a damn. The theme that permeates throughout the movie has to do with honor, and it is made resoundingly clear, through the subtleties, that this man has absolutely none.

7. Edward Longshanks in Braveheart

Cunning, scheming, treacherous. Wounded by the knowledge that his son and heir is a complete failure in every way, taking it out against a country. This is what makes a great movie villain: That the motivation is there, but defined only suggestively, in light pencil. He’s never actually psychoanalyzed, it never gets preachy.

8. The Shark in Jaws

Imagine yourself on that boat. A side garnish for the fear you’re feeling, is the genuine sense of bewilderment that the shark is planning and executing this stuff, like a master general. Dammit, they’re just not supposed to be able to do that!

9. Khan Noonien Sing in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Because overacting is a huge plus when you’re the bad guy. And quoting Milton just makes it better. He almost fails the cut, because his motivation is so simplistic and let’s face it, “just revenge” has been done before. But among the movie villains motivated solely by revenge, who is the leader of the pack? Nero? Eh, no. It’s Ricardo The Great, and you damn well know it.

10. Rene Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark

This is a stroke of genius, having the villain do the psychoanalyzing. He does it to Indy in that bar, and then he does it to Col. Dietrich near the end. Really, everything else he does in the film is small potatoes. And think about it: If he didn’t do these two things, some of the greatness would have been lost. He possessed purpose in building other characters, and at the same time, he developed crucial events in the story by injecting uncertainty into the choices they had to make — which, in turn, was something that served his own interests.

Update: Finally thought of some ladies:

11. Lady MacBeth

In high school, you are taught that she is the archetype, and rightly so.

12. Mrs. Iselin

Yowzer. You’ll never watch a re-run of “Murder, She Wrote” the same way ever again.

Update: Really had to wrestle with the two winning performances by Ronny Cox in the classics that were made back when Verhoeven was great:

13. Dick Jones in Robocop

14. Villos Cohaagen in Total Recall

There will never be another Ronny Cox.

On the other hand, this is not about acting. It’s about bad guys who are so good that, through the definition of what motivates them, they make a whole new breed of bad guy. And these would ordinarily fail…

But Dick Jones is clawing to the top of an organizational structure which is currently under the leadership of Dan O’Herlihy’s character, “The Old Man.” The Old Man, in turn, is rather like a kindly version of Montrose. Lacking in character, knowing there is some skulduggery going on but not really giving a care. Jones is a jealous ankle-biter….which makes him scary, because he’s backed into a corner.

Cohaagen, at three points in Total Recall, pronounces that he alone knows all of what’s going on and therefore he alone is in charge of planning anything. This is an interesting variation of Lundegaard’s character. This guy wears the same horse blinders with regard to the complexity of others, but he knows he’s wearing them and he’s proud of it.

The Epiphany of Avatar

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Patrick Goldstein describes it in the LA Times.

For years, pundits and bloggers on the right have ceaselessly attacked liberal Hollywood for being out of touch with rank and file moviegoers, complaining that executives and filmmakers continue to make films that have precious little resonance with Middle America. They have reacted with scorn to such high-profile liberal political advocacy films as “Syriana,” “Milk,” “W.,” ” Religulous,” “Lions for Lambs,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “In the Valley of Elah,” “Rendition” and “Good Night, and Good Luck,” saying that the movies’ poor performances at the box office were a clear sign of how thoroughly uninterested real people were in the pet causes of showbiz progressives.

Of course, “Avatar” totally turns this theory on its head. As a host of critics have noted, the film offers a blatantly pro-environmental message; it portrays U.S. military contractors in a decidedly negative light; and it clearly evokes the can’t-we-all-get along vibe of the 1960s counterculture. These are all messages guaranteed to alienate everyday moviegoers, so say the right-wing pundits — and yet the film has been wholeheartedly embraced by audiences everywhere, from Mississippi to Manhattan.

Isn’t that just like a lefty? Their pet theories are “proven,” when the data provide mixed results as opposed to being stacked firmly and steadfastly against them. “I love reality, whenever it’s nice to me.”

Hey, liberal-movie-people. Maybe it’s something like…when you put some priority on the objective of oh, I dunno, providing entertainment to the audience — show some creativity, show respect to your colleagues who show the creativity, encourage others among your colleagues to provide this creativity, and channel it through your processes so the experience for the audience is positive and rewarding — the audience will come back again and again. And when that happens, maybe the credit should go to these efforts to provide entertainment, rather than to your liberal messages.

Put another way: Quickly, now, what was the most memorable moment of the aforementioned “Lions for Lambs”?

Star Trek IV: Save the Whales

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Back on Christmas Day I wondered openly whether Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was not the most preachy lib-fest guilt-trip movie ever slapped on the big screen.

Well, we just picked up my kid from Nevada…who, as I mentioned before, shares my fascination with cheeseball 80′s dreck. So we watched it again, and I noticed something new: The repeated guilt-slams that occur throughout the last hour or so are all just dessert. The establishment of the plot line is the main course.

A malevolent entity — the “whale probe” — begins carving a destructive swath through our beloved planet, threatening its destruction. The response is to ponder what we did to piss it off. Not a single instant of footage manifests any curiosity from anyone regarding its origin. With V’Ger, our intrepid crew pondered both of these things…why are you so mean, and from whence did you come. I guess between ST:I and ST:IV a twenty-third-century Obama must have been elected. V’Ger should have been so lucky.

Shouldn’t Star Trek V should have been titled “Find Out What Sonofabitch Sent This Thing To Us And Make Them Into A Glass Parking Lot” or something? That might have worked a lot better than deliberately pissing off Christians yet one more time.

“Taken”

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

It is 12/24 and I have to put up something positive.

Taken, with Liam Neeson, works as if — exactly as if — someone somehow got hold of my list of things I don’t want to see in movies ever again, and set out to deliberately avoid each item. The fights are slightly over-the-top, but somewhat plausible.

In fact — Item #1, the woman and man getting into an argument about whether she’s coming with him or not? You even have a scene where Liam Neeson announces, right in front of his ex-wife who is the mother of his daughter who’s been kidnapped, that he’s going to Europe to get her back. It’s a perfect set-up for the tired old “Well, I”m coming with you!” “No you’re not!” “Yes I am!” It’s as if someone behind the camera said “Hold it guys, that’s going to piss off Morgan K. Freeberg of Folsom California, and we can’t have that, so let’s cut the scene NOW.”

Okay, maybe it didn’t happen that way.

There are no 100-pound women judo-flipping 300-pound men. The father-daughter relationship figures prominently in the movie, and yet you don’t have the ritual of the Dad suddenly waking up to realize what a towering asshole he’s been and that he should do better next time (Item #3). Liam Neeson does not have a plucky sidekick (Item #17). When he needs to incapacitate the bad guy, he delivers a karate chop to the windpipe, not to the shoulder blades (Item #34).

Famke Janssen plays an absolutely loathsome, execrable human being. Of course it’s something of a rehash of her character in Don’t Say a Word…except she’s got two good legs in this one…and she’s just a horrible person. But they even spend a minute or so providing an excuse/motive for that, and thus making her just a little bit more sympathetic. It’s like they thought of everything. It’s not like they accommodated everything; it takes a ninety-minute, less-is-more approach. But they at least took everything into account. Everything that’s there has a reason to be there, and everything left out has a reason to be left out.

And “Now’s not the time for a dick-measuring contest Stuart!” is a decent line. You’ll especially enjoy it if you’re in one of those “negotiate with some other household in how to raise my own damn child” situations. And, if you’re sick to death of movie people firing unlimited numbers of rounds out of nine-shot automatics; yes, when the correct number of reports have taken place, the slide mechanism locks back and Liam’s pistol is empty (Item #31).

What I Don’t Want to See in Movies

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

I wish Netflix had a feature to block this stuff, or at least warn about it.

1. A man and a woman getting in an argument about whether she’s coming with him or not.
2. A decent-hearted guy committing crimes with a great excuse for committing them, like for example his daughter is being held captive by some super-duper bad guy who wants him to commit the crimes.
3. A Doofus Dad smacking himself in the forehead at the end of the movie and confessing that he’s been working too much, or that he hasn’t spent enough time with his kids, or breaks his promises too often, or expects too much out of his kids.
4. Any scene with “Matrix” style slow-mo.
5. Any scene with John Woo pigeons.
6. Any movie ending in which the momma and the daughter live happily-ever-after when her daddy dies at the end.
7. The “Juno Effect,” in which some fresh-faced smartass pixie girl spews out nonsensical, clumsy, awkward, but oh-so-original cliches that, in real life, she would be asked to repeat a second time assuming anyone had the slightest bit of interest in what she was saying.
8. Supernatural movies in which someone opens a medicine cabinet, with a mirror on the door, as if we don’t know what’s coming.
9. Vampire movies that spend odious amounts of time exploring the emotional angst of the vampires.
10. Slasher movies in which someone wanders through the dark murmuring “Is that you? It’s not funny anymore!”
11. This is really huge for me: Once you’ve defined that a character is brave, or intelligent, or charming, or angst-ridden, or a badass — I don’t ever again want to see time spent defining that the character is brave, intelligent, charming, angst-ridden or badass. Build your story, please!
12. If two guys are going to be screwing the same woman, or simply getting into a fight over her, I don’t want them to have the same haircut, body build or skull shape. There’s no reason for it. If one’s clean cut, the other one can look like a gorilla. If one’s 6’2″, the other one can be 5’8″. If one’s got a runner’s body physique, the other can look like the Michelin Man. I can’t follow the story if I can’t tell these guys apart.
13. Get rid of this “clean break” in which Mister Sexy can drive or fly any vehicle, civilian or military, ever invented; he knows all the martial arts moves; he can operate gadgets that peek into windows and unlock safes. But when the time comes to crack a password in computer software, he “offloads” this to some geeky overweight guy with poor skin hygiene in a lab somewhere who overdoses all day long on doughnut holes and energy drinks. Let’s face it, cracking a safe has a lot more to do with cracking a password than with a flying-scissor-kick.
14. “Masculine” stars whose faces have been selected, shaved, made-up, and tweezed to appear non-threatening to twelve-year-old girls.
15. The “Nicholas Cage Effect” in which the same character finds, and figures out, each and every single clue while everybody else watches.
16. Helicopter performs some daring rescue that benefits the good guys…because it’s being flown by a bad guy…who is being held at gunpoint by another good guy. Stop this insanity. Stop it now. Stop it for good.
17. Plucky sidekicks. I don’t understand how or why this ever got started.
18. “Han Solo Ewok” effect. There are adorable muppet-like creatures straight out of Jim Henson’s shop. There are badass, hard-drinking pirates who spend all their spare time in wretched hives of scum and villainy. These two should never come in contact with each other no matter what.
19. The “Humans Are Bastards” trope.
20. The worn-out, threadbare “La Femme Nikita” plotline in which some badass is “recruited” to work for a super-secret government agency in atonement for some kind of crime that I’m supposed to think was somehow undeserving of the punishment that was handed down but is now being suspended.
21. The President of the United States getting in a fist fight with a terrorist, or piloting a jet fighter.
22. Really hot women figuring out where a ghost came from, throughout an entire movie, remaining fully clothed.
23. 1) Man and woman in a committed relationship 2) Woman sleeps with another guy 3) Something else happens 4) Man ends up apologizing to slutty woman and begging her forgiveness. I don’t care what happens in #3, it’s all bullshit. We’re not buying. Stop it.
24. The “Fried Green Tomatoes Effect” in which the wife decides they’re going to adopt a child…or raise a puppy…or knock down a wall…or sell their house and move to the country…and the husband says “oh, okay, alright.”
25. The momma laying a guilt trip on the daddy because junior’s heart was broken that he didn’t show up to the big soccer game, or was late to it.
26. A young girl or woman who has been killing people, receiving her come-uppins at the end by way of some moment of social awkwardness and/or humiliation. Humiliation is not on the same level as homicide, sorry. I don’t want to see anymore of this.
27. Smartass kids foiling an alien invasion or solving a murder case, while their parents are completely absent and/or clueless about everything that’s going on.
28. Husbands cheating on wives, who are gorgeous enough to model lingerie and achieve supermodel-goddess stature doing so, with mistresses who are relatively homely and ordinary-looking. Maybe that’s reflective of what happens in real life, I don’t care. It makes it really hard to follow what’s going on in the movie.
29. “Crouching Tiger Hidden Warrior Princess” wire work. And, while we’re at it, the Quantum-of-Delerium-Tremens shaky-camera gimmick. Who likes this?
30. Southern accents being used as a dramatic manifestation of ignorance, pig-headedness or arrogance. I have no further patience for this. I can’t speak for the experience of everyone who happens to live in Hollywood, but the southerners I’ve met have been pretty nice.

Update 12/20/09:
Holy crap has this post ever hit a nerve. Welcome to The Other McCain readers, and thanks Smitty again for the link. Welcome also to fans of Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler. Misha, you are da bomb. Just because we don’t comment over there much doesn’t mean we don’t read you and love ya all to pieces.

Readers are being directly questioned for their additions to this list, and some of the offerings are more than adequate for consideration. We especially loved Comment #2.

I could do without every GI or ex-GI being a ticking time bomb. As the Emperor said, if we were really that way you would already be dead.

I hate where the GIs go rogue and the kindly Professor is the only calm one. The EXACT FUCKING REVERSE OF REAL LIFE!

I will stop with that!

Yeah well, I kinda wish you didn’t.

It’s a funny thing about creativity. People get into the business of providing it, and the first thing they want to do is skimp on it. It’s a weak corollary trying to connect software applications development to Hollyweird…but I think it works, and if it does work, then I’ve seen more than my share of this.

It’s sad watching people throw everything away to chase off after a livelihood, and then betray that livelihood. People, generally, sacrifice an awful lot to stay un-creative.

Update 12/22/09: The thread under Misha’s linky-love just grows and grows, 63 comments now, do check ‘em out. New ideas I get from this are as follows:

31. Just in general, lack of respect for guns and what they are. Someone offered up the issue with silencers on revolvers. Another one mentioned 99 bullets coming out of a 9-shot with no reloading.
32. Lack of respect for what guns do. Depiction of gun owners as being wild-eyed, crazed zealots who don’t bathe. Lack of respect for how a gun changes the dynamics of a situation. Laws-of-physics regarding guns. Hiding behind a car door to make oneself practically invulnerable to antagonistic gunfire, particularly large-caliber gunfire.
33. This one I’ve been bitching about for a long time, I can’t believe I forgot to add it. Impact to the face…culminating in any injury that falls short of what this impact would leave behind in real life. It is very hard to give someone a whack in the face, during a real fight, that doesn’t leave permanent damage. If someone absorbs a kick from a steel-toed boot to the nose, and then another, and then another, and kinda shakes his head back & forth to get his bearings back so he can get ready to throw the next punch, I’m offended. No, a trickle of blood is not what I have in mind here. Yes, Rocky Balboa gets an exemption from this rule for dramatic purposes.
34. The opposite of #33. Good guy’s prison cell is being guarded by a mook, so he sneaks up behind the mook and gives him — a KARATE CHOP BETWEEN THE SHOULDER BLADES! Mook instantly collapses and starts snoozing. This is intolerable. Crowbar to the face makes a guy slightly startled, karate chop gets him a six-hour nap. Wise up.
35. Lack of motive for the bad guy. Zorg from The Fifth Element, I’m looking at you. Also, mega-industrialists from Captain Planet cartoons because dumping toxic sludge into rivers does not make you an overnight zillionaire all by itself. Motivation doesn’t have to be a complex thing. In the original Star Wars movie it was a single line: “Fear will keep the local systems in line.” But you have to have it. Just making the guy 45 years old or more, dressing him in a nice suit with a silk tie late at night, thus giving me a signal he’s a “businessman” — will not suffice. Make him bad. Have him do bad stuff. Explain what he is trying to do. Noah Cross. Old Man Potter. Wicked Witch of the West. Jerry Lundegaard. Khan Noonien Singh. Virgil Sollozzo. Every single James Bond villain, and for that matter, every single villain from Monk. Make ‘em like that. Not hard. Capiche?

Robocop Alternate Endings

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

All you young kids who don’t know about this classic, it’s here. Something put together by Paul Verhoeven back in the days when his products were consistently good…not just hit-n-miss. Yeah, I liked Total Recall m-u-u-c-h better than Starship Troopers or Hollow Man. I’m funny like that.

But Robocop beats ‘em all. Robocop’s the bomb. Robocop I, that is.

Walk Away From the Explosion, Don’t Look Back

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Yeah I know I already made fun of this highly overused trope back in June…one of our loyal readers in New Mexico thought once was more than enough. But the movie-makers can’t stop using it, so I can’t stop making fun of it.

When just blowing something up isn’t enough, proof of one’s apparent badass bombing technique can be seen when the bomber leaves himself barely enough time to escape the blast radius, usually just enough so that as he’s walking away, he’s silhouetted by the explosion itself. The exploding object can be anything: a building, a car, a space ship…anything large enough with plot-relevance that must simply, absolutely be erased in a fireball. Bonus points if the target’s not the object detonated itself, but the person or people inside. One has to really want someone dead to bother setting up such a considerable kaboom when several bullets to the head would do just as well. Regardless of the explosion’s size, badasses of this stamp will rarely need to worry about shrapnel, flying masonry, or getting blasted off their feet by shock waves. The shock waves can be useful for blowing about that cool cloak or longcoat the badass may be wearing.

Besides, when I lampooned this recurring effect a few months ago I failed to tie it in to Why Everything Sucks so much lately. It doesn’t matter that this particular clip wasn’t out there just yet at the time. The point has been a valid one for awhile, the connection is there whether we choose to recognize it or not. So we might as well recognize it. We’re following that rule about “Never attribute to malice that which may be blamed on incompetence,” and I have found this to be a good rule.

Parents: When you just have to have that “alone time” on the weekend afternoons do NOT send your darlings down to the movie theater with fifty bucks or whatever. DO. NOT. You are sending the average age of the theater audience down, down, down…and with that, the quality. You Saturday fornicators are ruining movies. You don’t want to ruin movies, do you?

But whether you intend to or not, that’s what you’re doing. Too many young kids watching movies. With money. Participating in the market. Creating an artificial demand for the same silly effect over and over again…

Well, some nine-year-olds jump into the movie-consuming market, and the real “civilized” people jump right out:

…I went to one movie the last year. Maybe three in the last four years. There is not much choice here—car crashes, evil white men killing the innocent, some gay or feminist heroes fending off club-bearing white homophobic Mississippians in pick-ups. Or you can endure the American war-machine kidnapping, torturing, or murdering even more of the helpless abroad—with Robert Redford, glassed down, tweed in display, or snarly George Clooney sermonizing, like the choruses of Euripides’ tragedies.

The usual themes—some evil corporation is destroying something (fill in the blanks: the environment, the neighborhood, the small town, etc.), some CIA conspiracy is out to ruin a crusading heroic journalist, or some brave professor or writer is exposing a massive cover-up—are, well, boring, even with the sex, the blow-em-up explosions, and some nice scenery. (And all this from a corporate Hollywood—reliant on the security of the American military, crass in its high tastes and destructive in its behavior, and all the while profit and status obsessed!

If it is not all that, we get instead some neurotic suburban psychodrama about a senseless midlife crisis of some aging yuppies, wondering whether their empty lives really have meaning. Then there are always the “action” movies about tomb-robbing, treasure-hunting, or Zombie killing, but even they try to mask emptiness with a politically-correct throw-away line now and then. Can’t they make one movie of the Lewis and Clark expedition or Lepanto, and one less with Tom Hanks as the anguished and caring postmodern man?

You and me both, Victor. All together now: “Get the hell off my lawn!” (Hat tip for that excellent find to Neo-Neocon.)

When we demand creativity out of people…and they supply something else, and are allowed to call it a success…everybody loses and nobody wins.

Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions

Cool guys don’t look at explosions
They blow things up and then walk away
Who’s got time to watch an explosion?
Because cool guys have errands that they have to walk to..
Keep walkin’, keep shinin’
Don’t look back keep on walkin’
Keep struttin’ slow motion
The more you ignore it, the cooler you look

I and J

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Now that we’re a third of the way through the alphabet…who makes the better magazine cover?

I’m trying to be fair about it. Problem is, Goldeneye was so much better of a movie than Stealth.

I’ve always liked Jessica Biel. At least, I’ve liked her for about as long as she’s been around, which isn’t long. For a young tart, she’s got a rather classic beauty about her. I wish she was in more stuff.

This one is decided by personality. Izabella has wolf-in-sheeps-clothing written all over her — yes I don’t know that for a fact, but browse through her portfolio, watch Goldeneye, and tell me there aren’t all kinds of hidden layers to her. In fact, that’s why there was a horrible problem with casting in Stealth. It’s an acting-range problem. There were other problems…robot not interesting enough…too many recycled tropes to the story…bad chemistry…but Jessica simply wasn’t believable as a jet pilot. Izabella would’ve made it work.

Sloane Peterson Taught Her to Be a Good Girlfriend

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Not too much attention being paid these days by the ladies, in these not-quite-so-delicate matters of how to be a good girlfriend. Things do seem to be improving there slightly, I think…but it’s tough for me to tell because I’ve got the best girlfriend of all. So for me it’s like trying to look at the stars in the sky while standing under a very bright light.

Sloane PetersonWhatever the situation, I thought I’d help the improvement along, because this is a great post and it deserves linkage (and she, in turn, found it over here). And I think I found some new blogroll entries as well:

THE GUIDE TO BEING SO CHOICE:

How Sloane Peterson from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Taught me how to be an Awesome Girlfriend.

 • Get along with his friends if you don’t get along with his friends you are done. seriously. That is number 1. Even if you think his friends are uptight weirdos or hypochondriac freaks, HEY, he is friends with them for a reason, so cut the shit. You’ve probably got some weird and crappy friends too.
:
 • Pack lightly ever notice how tiny Sloane’s purse was? The bigger the purse, the lamer the girl. Its called baggage for a reason.

Kind of funny that this weekend just past was our “Ferris Bueller” weekend. I haven’t even sent the disc back, it’s sitting right there on top of the red envelope under the teevee staring me in the face.

I have mixed emotions about this one. On the one hand, Ferris is so clearly headed for a future of being a welfare bum…but you can’t bet any real money on that, can you. After all, he is a smart kid surrounded by stupid grownups, recognizing the futility of a mediocre school curriculum churning out mediocre graduates by going through the motions. He’s taking the bull by the horns. But of course, he could be taking the bull by the horns doing something productive and not quite so fun to watch. This is, after all, the kid from War Games.

In the end, Ferris lands on the “approve” side of my fence because of his sister. It’s a movie not quite so much about the things we do, as about the emotional reaction we have to the ideas of doing those things…and through the high-strung sister, the film recognizes my conflict and addresses it head-on:

“I hate him.” It is the hate that comes from doubt. It is hate felt by those who “know” they’re doing the right thing by preserving order, even when that order leaves dimwits in charge…but aren’t completely sure that this is the right thing. They know they’ve been given a choice of rejecting rebellion versus rejecting incompetence, and have chosen to tolerate incompetence.

Memo For File XCVI

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

I’m watching Enterprise, and I think I’ve figured out what happened to Star Trek. It wasn’t fatigue. There were things done right back in the Kirk Days, that were being done decidedly wrong in what came afterward. And I’m not referring to miniskirts the size of lampshades…although there is that too. You get rid of a good thing, you need to replace it with something else just as good or better.

No, you have to stop and ask yourself “What makes a scene good?” The answer is the same for teevee and big screen. And literature too. All storytelling, really.

To justify its existence, a scene has to define something. It can define a character, or it can define an event that moves the story along. A visual treat for the audience is good, but that’s just candy. Within a decade it will all be obsolete…the CGI…the special effects…the surreal architecture…an unusually grisly demise…Raquel Welch dancing around in her undies…the gizmo somebody is holding that does something and makes you go “hey, lookit that.” That could justify a scene for a little while, but it’s a weak foundation and if the entire product is built out of things like this it will certainly be a bad product.

No, a good scene confines itself to the first two. Character and story. A good scene defines both of these, not just one. And a truly great scene will leave the audience in a state of confusion about which one is primarily important. As the scene unfolds, after it is done, and for several minutes thereafter — a state of confusion should exist about what the audience was supposed to get out of it.

And to be a horrible awful wretched scene, it should exist for the purpose of defining some aspect of a character that has already been thoroughly defined.

Think of the scene where Michael tells Moe Greene that the Corleone family wants to buy him out. Conventional thinking says “Waitaminnit…it’s over five minutes long. It’s a crappy scene, case closed, because there’s no way a scene can be good if it’s five minutes long.” But this is, in fact, a piece of movie greatness.

As it starts out there isn’t even a hint that anything special is going to happen here. Michael tells Fredo to get rid of the girls, alright…we are being told Michael Corleone is all-business. Well, this is over two hours in. We already knew this. Oh no wait, now something is being defined about Fredo’s character. Now we’re defining something about Moe’s character. Now we’re being told a whole bunch of things about stuff that happened previously…complex plot points from the book are being shoehorned, in the movie, into this one five-minute scene. Which is a little awkward. Moe sums up the five-families situation with his “The Godfather’s Sick” speech, which defines a theme. Moe tells Michael to go stick it, which constitutes an event; the event will become important later. Michael ignores the remonstration and tells Moe to come up with a number. This defines something not quite so much about Michael’s character, as about the code by which he’s managing the family business. Moe storms off, Fredo says something that defines him, and Michael tells Fredo something that makes another entry into the archive of Great Movie Lines. Which defines the business.

The confusion about purpose is what makes the scene great. If there was a singular, unmistakable point to the scene it couldn’t be this good.

Bad scene? Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The one where Darth Maul is introduced, when he steps into view while Darth Sidious is talking to the Viceroys on one of those hologram communicator things. It was pretty awesome seeing Darth Maul introduced this way…but the Viceroy delivers the anticlimactic line “We should not have made this bargain!” or some such thing, and it’s over. Not only do you get this choppy feeling there was another minute or so that was tossed on the cutting room floor, but there’s too much clarity. We know too much about why we were shown what we just saw. It’s an attempt to revive the Faustian suspense of Lando Carlissian saying “This deal gets worse all the time!” and it fails. It fails because the audience understands, and feeling no uncertainty about it whatsoever, what they were supposed to learn from what they just saw. They’re put in the position of evaluating a complete list of what they just figured out, against how many minutes it took them to learn that — and the result is boredom.

An even worse scene? There’s one in Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life, in which one of her new allies who is just being introduced…follows Lara’s instructions on a headset while he’s driving a jeep. He is ordered to just keep driving in a straight line at the same speed and — surprise! Lara lands in the jeep on a hang glider! Okay. What did we learn, that Lara Croft is an adrenaline junkie who is full of surprises. But we knew this about her already. There is no new aspect of her adrenaline-junkie-ness that is defined outside of what was defined before…the hang gliding equipment notwithstanding…and regarding the fellow who was supposed to be introduced to us through this scene, we have absolutely no information at all other than he knows how to drive a jeep in a straight line.

This is one reason why, I would add, that girls can’t have adventure movies. When you create a James Bond adventure, you can define over and over again that James Bond is a cool guy who knows how to do stuff, but you can do it with finesse, elegance and balance. You can leave the audience wondering what the universality of purposes might have been with regard to a specific scene, by defining Bond’s character, the characters he meets & fights, and elements to the evolving story all at the same time. You can use that ambiguity as a weapon against the audience. Make them wonder what the point is. Give them a puzzle to work out as you tell them the story. Girls on the other hand…no. You have to constantly be pounding the message home over and over again: “She is awesome and bold and she knows how to do stuff.” If the scene defines that, but also defines something else, then you are a seeeeexist movie making guy. Wonder Woman can deflect bullets off her bracelets…but also…there was some hidden motive the guy had for shooting her, so there’s some mystery and we’ll be wanting you to pay some attention to that…out of the question. Wonder Woman has talents and abilities, and that’s the only thought that should be in your li’l head. So there can be none of this puzzle-working or ambiguity, which is so vital to making all good scenes good and great scenes great.

How Awesome I AmNow here is some irony: In the twentieth century, has there been any fictionalized character in any medium, electronic or print, more over-defined than Captain Kirk? Probably not. But in the old Star Trek, there were scenes that were ambiguous in their purpose. Here is Spock forming a theory about the alien, which defines Spock’s logic and superior intellect — but we’re also learning something about this week’s situation, something we’re pretty sure will become relevant later, so we’re fixated on that. Kirk being awesome, theatrically angry, oh-so-boldly protesting the death of his latest redshirt crewman, showing his Kirk-cajones…again, that is subordinate to this other purpose of figuring out what is going on, why the redshirt got killed, who’s keeping secrets from who.

With these newer shows, it was all about showcasing how awesome was Janeway, Sisko, Archer, et al. Another day another dollar: T’Pol shows no emotions because she’s a Vulcan, and Archer is awesome. That’s what you’re supposed to learn from this scene, now let us go on to the next one.

It’s often said that the perfect movie has a purpose for every little thing in it. Someone must have heard that, and taken it to mean the audience should understand that purpose, as each “little thing” makes its very first appearance. And that the purpose should be reiterated with each subsequent appearance.

And aside from displaying Sean Connery dancing around in a big red diaper, I think these are just about the worst things a movie-making dude can possibly do.

Great Movie Dialogue: How to Murder Your Wife

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

From here. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re really missing something.

Harold: Mrs. Ford, this is my wife, Edna. She speak mucho good Italian…take lessons…many dollars…dollars is many many Lira…

Edna: Shut up, Harold, you sound like a feeble-minded idiot. (Italian cross-talk as Edna and Mrs. Ford greet each other.)

Stanley: It’s very simple, I want an annulment! I don’t like being married!

Harold: How do you know you don’t like it, if you haven’t tried it?

Stanley: I’ve tried it!

Harold: If you’ve tried it, then it’s too late to get an annulment! (Signature horse-laugh.)

This movie is older than I am. And yet it identifies a problem that even now is just beginning to reach a crescendo: Marriage being re-defined as something innately unacceptable to a man of any intelligence…seemingly to weed out any men who have any intelligence.

I think my favorite part of the movie is the way the tiny loud purse-sized little yip-dogs are used as a metaphor for what is happening. Quite ingenious, and prophetic really, when you stop to consider it’s a 44-year-old movie.

Sceb the Outer Space Chicken Reviews Quantum of Solace

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Yeah, this is pretty much how I saw it.

As regular readers may already know.

“If you’re gonna name your movie something that people have to look up in the dictionary what it means, THAT ISN’T A GOOD NAME FOR YOUR MOVIE.” Hehehe. He’s right, that was a rather opprobrious, obdurate and obsequious title.

One Hundred Must-See Man Movies

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

From The Art of Manliness. Everyone knows the real fun of these lists is picking away at them and criticizing them for what they left out. Well, this one didn’t leave anything out, it covered every single movie a real man would want to watch.

1. The Great Escape
2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
3. Dirty Harry
4. The Endless Summer
5. Bull Durham
6. The Apartment
7. The Shootist
8. Hoosiers
9. Last of the Mohicans
10. The Bicycle Thief
11. Field of Dreams
12. North by Northwest
13. The Outsiders
14. First Blood (Rambo)
15. The Manchurian Candidate
16. In the Heat of the Night
17. Shane
18. Double Indemnity
19. Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside)
20. The Maltese Falcon
21. Das Boot
22. Star Wars (The Original Trilogy)
23. Rudy
24. High Noon
25. Gandhi
26. Rebel Without a Cause
27. The French Connection
28. Casablanca
29. Unforgiven
30. The Iron Giant
31. Gladiator
32. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
33. The Hustler
34. The Untouchables
35. The Grapes of Wrath
36. Bullitt
37. The Best Years of Our Lives
38. Die Hard
39. Enter the Dragon
40. Malcolm X
41. Cinderella Man
42. The Right Stuff
43. True Grit
44. A Streetcar Named Desire
45. Vertigo
46. All Quiet on the Western Front
47. The Shawshank Redemption
48. Cool Hand Luke
49. Spartacus
50. Mississippi Burning
51. Chinatown
52. Remember the Titans
53. Braveheart
54. Citizen Kane
55. On the Waterfront
56. The Bourne Identity (The Series)
57. Rocky
58. Apollo 13
59. Glory
60. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
61. The Karate Kid
62. The African Queen
63. The Sting
64. Chariots of Fire
65. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
66. Schindler’s List
67. All the President’s Men
68. Zulu
69. Patton
70. Lawrence of Arabia
71. The Godfather (I and II)
72. 12 Angry Men
73. Lord of the Rings (The Series)
74. Gangs of New York
75. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
76. Dead Poets Society
77. The Searchers
78. Pride of the Yankees
79. Saving Private Ryan
80. American Beauty
81. Seven Samurai
82. From Here to Eternity
83. Old Yeller
84. To Kill a Mockingbird
85. Dr. No
86. Jeremiah Johnson
87. A River Runs Through It
88. Bridge On the River Kwai
89. Gentleman’s Agreement
90. Fight Club
91. Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade)
92. It’s a Wonderful Life
93. A Raisin in the Sun
94. The Natural
95. Ghostbusters
96. Ben Hur
97. Groundhog Day
98. Top Gun
99. Swingers
100. The Longest Day

With just a few minor exceptions…which I wrote down…

1. Robocop
2. Judgment at Nuremberg
3. The Patriot
4. Bad Day at Black Rock
5. Fargo
6. The Cowboys
7. The Incredibles
8. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
9. The Man From Snowy River
10. How To Murder Your Wife
11. Airplane I & II
12. Jaws
13. Beowulf
14. Troy
15. 1776
16. 300
17. Robin Hood
18. Zorro
19. The Mask of Zorro
20. Batman
21. Superman I & II
22. A Bridge Too Far
23. Casino Royale
24. The Hunter
25. Billy Bathgate
26. Blade Runner
27. The Terminator
28. No Country For Old Men
29. Blue Thunder
30. Goldeneye
31. Office Space
32. Blazing Saddles
33. The Russians Are Coming
34. Outland
35. Team America: World Police
36. Rob Roy
37. Rear Window
38. Shenandoah
39. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
40. Death Wish I & II
41. Escape From Alcatraz
42. The Three Musketeers
43. The Towering Inferno
44. Chato’s Land
45. Full Metal Jacket
46. The African Queen
47. A Few Good Men
48. The Fugitive
49. Beau Geste
50. Lawrence of Arabia
51. The Bucket List
52. Easy Rider
53. The Wind and the Lion
54. Planet of the Apes
55. Soylent Green
56. Tom Horn
57. The Poseidon Adventure
58. Duel
59. Harry’s War
60. Saving Private Ryan
61. The Green Mile
62. Pulp Fiction
63. Reservoir Dogs
64. The Gauntlet
65. Centennial (TV)
66. American Pie
67. The Fountainhead
68. Payback
69. The Princess Bride
70. Gran Torino
71. Peter The Great (TV)
72. Heartland
73. Fright Night
74. The Graduate
75. Breaking Away
76. Breaker Mourant
77. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
78. The Sons of Katie Elder
79. Roots (TV)
80. The Winds of War (TV)
81. Tombstone
82. A Man Called Horse
83. Road House
84. Commando
85. Highlander
86. Watchmen
87. True Lies
88. Raging Bull
89. Fitzcarraldo
90. Network
91. Harold and Maude
92. Deliverance
93. Psycho
94. The Lion in Winter
95. Rashomon
96. The Fighting Sullivans
97. The Scarlet Pimpernel
98. The Mummy
99. Marathon Man
100. The Great Santini

Other than those few things left out, it’s a perfect list.

Top Twenty Badass Scenes in Movies

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

It’s got a thick layer of dust on it, something like two years worth…but criticizing lists is fun.

What got forgotten:

This

…and this

…and this. You got IV but you didn’t get I?

This had some good stuff. Like when Brad Pitt lanced that big giant fella.

And why are we forgetting all about Quint getting eaten by the shark? I would think that one would’ve been obvious.

All those imperial admirals getting killed. We talked about it all through that summer. It seems Lord Vader got some kind of a promotion. It made the movie.

The quintessential car chase, how could you leave that one out? Steve McQueen got you all honked off about something?

Jack Palance gunned that poor dude down and left him lying in the mud. Movie history.

Khaaaaaannnnn!!!!

Moral sermonizing against racism long before it was ever cool. Spencer Tracey does his acting with one hand tied behind his back, and turns in a classic. And yes, now you know it’s true that Ernest Borgnine looked like an old man when he was still young. Wonderful, wonderful overlooked gem. See this one if you have to pass up all the others.

If you can’t get hold of that one, set aside some time to look at Jimmy Stewart as a grumpy old southern farmer bastard. Yeah, he pulled it off and he pulled it off very well. It’ll make you think and it might even make you cry.

What we got here, is a failure ta communicate.

A one-eyed John Wayne.

Those are just off the top of my head…

Handrails

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Ace just noticed that handrails don’t exist in the Star Wars universe.

I thought he might’ve stolen the idea from me, but when I explored my archives I found this bitch-pitch of mine somehow hadn’t made it into The Blog That Nobody Reads. I’ve been saying for years this has been a staple of the sci-fi genre — the absence of certain things. From anywhere.

1. Birthdays
2. Old women
3. Young men (at least, not too many young men)
4. Handrails
5. Dissenting viewpoints

Every single planet is populated by some wizened old geezer who’s going to be among the very first talking moving things you meet when you land on it, and happens to run the entire planet. His motives are somewhere between suspect and nefarious. And his lovely buxom daughter, who appears to have been conceived without the benefit of any mother living or dead worth mentioning. She’s never seen a young virile man ever before. She needs someone to teach her how to kiss.

And maybe pick out a wardrobe that would cover everything up. But first she needs to be taught how to kiss.

Everyone speaks absolutely flawless English.

Characters tend to be defined at the group level. Someone approaches a group with an offering of peace, or commerce, or to join forces — there is a spokesman for the group. What happens next just bugs the piss out of me: The spokesman thinks awhile, and then says “We agree.” Very rarely does anyone say something like “that’s quite an interesting proposal, give us an hour or two while we go off and think it over.” Nothing interesting happens there. Nothing like: Fredo wants to do right by the family but he’s humiliated and smarting from being passed over…or…Sonny has a famous Sicilian temper and doesn’t trust Tom like he should even though they were best friends in childhood…nothing complicated like that. Nope. Groups are atomic. There are no sub-factions developing within them, that would take time to explore, and in sci-fi every minute is prohibitively expensive. So — the group agrees. Event defined. Get to the next event in the story. Quick. And when the end product turns out to be boring, don’t blame the writers, you obviously didn’t have enough cute CGI creatures or blow up enough stuff.

The birthday thing: How in the world did Luke and Leia go four years not realizing they had the same damn birthday? The only possible answer is that in the Star Wars universe they don’t have ‘em. All those stars in the galaxy with different planet revolution intervals, it’s just too much of a hassle to keep track. In all my years of watching and reading science fiction, as the writers flail around desperately trying to find ways to build the characters, failing at it more often than not, I’m reasonably sure the only birthday celebration I’ve ever seen was on Buck Rogers.

Richard Corliss Hates Netflix

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Richard Corliss, Time magazine crony and whiny-butt who hates Netflix:

It’s Friday night, and you want to watch a movie at home with that special someone. You could go to a video store and rent a film, and instantly it’s yours; popcorn extra. Or you could go to Netflix, and the movie will arrive, earliest, on Tuesday. Here’s hoping you had a Plan B for your big date.

What a putz. Uh…it’s called…planning ahead? You’re a stranger to it?

Ah, but you love Netflix, the online rental service that delivers movies and TV shows to your mailbox. Since its start in 1999, the company has sent more than 2 billion discs to its 10.6 million subscribers, who return them in the familiar red envelopes for more titles. (Think of Amazon.com but as a DVD-lending library instead of a bookstore.) Wall Street generally likes Netflix, whose Nasdaq stock price has more than doubled since last fall, and so does the public; the company has the No. 1 customer-satisfaction rating among online retailers.
:
A Netflix ad has one contented couple purring, “We don’t miss the video store at all.” Well, I do. Specifically, I miss Kim’s Video, a lower-Manhattan movie-rental landmark that housed 55,000 DVDs and cassettes of the vastest and most eccentric variety–until it closed early this year and shipped the whole stash to Sicily. Admittedly, Kim’s was one of the gems, but cities large and small used to have video stores with all manner of movies that you could see right away. With Netflix, you surrender those basic American rights: impulse choice and instant gratification. You must cool your jets for two to four days, dependent as you are on both the skill of Netflix employees to put the correct movie in your envelope (sometimes they don’t) and the speed of the U.S. Postal Service. By the time a video arrives, you may have forgotten why you rented it.

Yes, where humans are involved there is going to be some error. Some Presidents try to revive the economy and succeed only in converting the world’s champion capitalist nation into just another filthy socialist mudpuddle…that’s an error. And, several levels beneath that, a Netflix guy might stick the wrong disc in the envelope, or program a robot arm to make that mistake. I’m not quite so sure. To the best I can recall, I’m a charter Netflix subscriber or something close to charter…perhaps on-again off-again. I’m trying to think back — have I ever fished the wrong movie out of a Netflix envelope? I think perhaps two or three discs out of all those hundreds of orders might’ve been unreadable.

You have to wait, and sometimes the hired help screws things up — as if those never happen at Blockbuster! Mr. Corliss, of all the articles I’ve ever read, yours ranks high on the “phony” list. And believe me, you did not stick your review into the wrong envelope there. You got a bulls-eye on that one. Now if I could just figure out your motive. Do you own stock in BB?

Most online retailers try to interest customers in items similar to ones they’ve bought. Netflix offers “Movies Most Like …,” but the similarities can be baffling. Rent the Indian drama Fiza and you’ll be pointed to Season 1 of Scrubs and the Bakker biopic The Eyes of Tammy Faye. This is when I yearn for the guys behind the old Kim’s counter. Not that every video-store clerk is a budding Quentin Tarantino, eager to point renters toward some arcane masterpiece from Italy or Hong Kong, but you do miss out on a face-to-face with a knowledgeable cinephile.

Beyond the mail delays and the botched orders, the lack of human interaction is the big problem with Netflix and its cyber-ilk. Thanks to the Internet, we can now do nearly everything–working, shopping, moviegoing, social networking, having sex–on one machine at home. We’re becoming a society of shut-ins. We deprive ourselves of exercise, even if it’s just a stroll around the mall, until we’re the shape of those blobby people in WALL•E. And we deny ourselves the random epiphanies of human contact.

Getting movies by mail is, Netflix hopes, just a stage between the Blockbuster era of video stores and the imminent streaming of movies. You can already get 12,000 Netflix titles on your TV (if you have a Blu-ray player or spring for a $100 Netflix box). So, O.K., soon there will be no more waiting for DVDs. But it’ll come at a price. You’ll be what the online corporate culture wants you to be: a passive, inert receptacle for its products.

Me, I’d rather go out to the movies. Or to a video store, even if it is in Sicily.

I have a lot of sympathy with this part of it, really I do. You’ll not find too many people more worried about the egg-ifying of the human race than yours truly. But…if we’re worried about hanging on to the everyday talents of yesteryear, aren’t there some other talents more to our liking than becoming bosom buddies with random strangers behind the counter at a video store? What about making venison jerky? Putting five shots in a target in a tight grouping? Washing and waxing a car? Covering a hundred miles in a day on a bicycle? Using leather tools to make something out of cowhide?

There are a lot of talents we can keep cultivated. All the worthy ones don’t necessarily have to do with socializing with people.

To be blunt about it, I am really quite shell-shocked at the low quality threshold in publishing a Time article here. A pet peeve, a poorly qualified one at that, fills the bill? Really? How much do Time columnists make in a year? I’ve got lots of pet peeves; I could keep a gravy train like that rolling for quite some time.

Seriously.

Megan Fox Overexposed

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

That headline makes our chosen topic sound oh so much more exciting than it really is. A one-day moratorium is being announced for August 4 on a bunch of guy-centered online mags, like this one and this one and this one and this one, against anything related to the sexpot star of Transformers movies.

Renouncing Megan FoxWell, I’m of two minds about it. The girl is horribly miscast, but at least she does know how to act, kinda. Did I say horribly miscast? I meant awfully, terribly, reprehensibly, stink-on-wheels miscast. I think they broke the mold before they made Michael Bay. The man knows how to blow things up, and he knows how to have lots of guys walk in slow motion toward the camera in a classic “power walk” just before they face certain doom. But he couldn’t assemble a female character to save his life. He doesn’t seem to keep in mind if he’s developing a nice-girl, a bored-housewife, a bitch, a vamp, a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold, an evil-stepmother, a dowager, a princess, a lady-of-the-lake, Juliet, Marion Ravenwood, Lieutenant Uhura, Scheherazade, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It’s like, to him, they’re all just one male stock character with a few different body parts.

So he gets hold of Megan Fox, who is a young trash-temptress with an Angelina Jolie obsession and tattoo fixation, who is sizzling hot and can kinda sorta act. And he puts her in this part that is a better fit for Elisabeth Shue, back in the Cocktail days. It seems like a great fit at first. She’s dating the football jackass, she breaks up with him because he wants her to be his “bunny,” she knows more about cars than she lets on because her dad’s a jailbird carjacker, and by the second movie she’s working in daddy’s motorcycle shop as a girl grease monkey. At this point, there is only a partial disconnect…the tattoos fit right in, the overly-thick makeup job with the glossy pouty lips, does not. We can deal with that.

But then she’s the Girl Friday to Shia Labeouf as he repeats his run-the-gauntlet stunt from the first movie, trying to get a precious thing-a-ma-bob to a waiting whatz-a-ma-giggit, so we’re all left watching Shia and this super-duper-hot-girl — who’s fully clothed, by the way — run through this maze of marauding robots and explosions. And it just has an awkward feel to it, ya know. She does a lot of yelling, when everybody else does a lot of yelling. In Michael Bay movies, if you’re doing something and you want whatever it is to work…especially if it’s got to do with working a motorcycle, car, plane, boat, machine gun or rocket launcher — you yell really loud. A nice throaty yell is great for making things work in movies. I first learned that when Stalone went AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!! while firing a machine gun at nothing in Rambo II. Yelling makes things work. Always. Unless it’s that car that won’t start when the machete-guy is walking…real…slow toward you in a slasher movie. Other than that, yelling works. Megan Fox yells very nicely. She has a man-yell.

Having said all that, yes I’m tired of her. She lacks man-appeal. Methinks her appeal is for boys, the boys who are fascinated with girls, but only since sometime last year. Untroubled by any unpleasant memories of an actual coupling, they lust after the ladies they’ll not actually be having, the same way a grown man lusts after a Bugatti Veyron or F1 McLaren. This full-grown man appreciates her supple body parts, but he finds her personality irritating, along with her overly-made-up face. He finds her suitable as a background extra with few or no speaking lines, perhaps a showgirl; nothing more center-stage than those. She lacks watch-ability. Think of re-doing the 1930′s classic production of Wizard of Oz, with Fox cast as Dorothy. Which means she’s carrying the entire show, since everyone except Dorothy occupies a secondary role. See what I mean now?

There is an urban legend going around that forty years ago, when they were creating a new character for The Avengers, one of the producers dashed off a memorandum addressing the desire for this person to have “M. Appeal,” with M standing for Man. And that’s how the character got her name. It seems, from all I’ve been able to gather, that there is some truth to this legend — but it really doesn’t matter, does it. Mrs. Peel did have man appeal, bushels of it, and because of that she remains memorable to this very day. Why? She appealed to men, and she was brilliantly cast, the part filled with a wonderful, talented actress who fit it and connected with it. Peel will never be forgotten, ever.

Now are there any Transformers fans who can remember the name of Fox’s character in the movie? And can spell it correctly?

Overexposed is right. It’s time for her to go bye-bye for a little while. It’s certainly not her fault, at least not completely. But the fatigue has set in.

And that goes for the live-action Wonder Woman movie too. The Champion of Themiscyra is tat-free; inking her skin would be disrespectful to her mother, and it probably wouldn’t work anyhow because she’s made out of clay. Keep looking. Think about Odette Yustman and Julia Voth instead.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

Ten Greatest Movie Badasses of All Time

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Yup, we seem to be on a roll with post titles the feminists will find odious. But this is The Blog That Nobody Reads, so don’t go holding your breath for one of them to put up one of their own “I hate this thing I found over here now help me hate it” treatises.

What am I saying? Don’t hold your breath waiting for them not to do that; it’s all they do. So it’s like even money.

Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand

None of the stars of old are on the list. It seems to start sometime in the 1970′s. None of John Wayne’s characters made the cut, and you can forget about Kirk Douglas, Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner. Bronson did get in through the magic of his “Death Wish” movies.

I was glad to see Rambo at #2. Rambo’s the bomb. I had no idea a machine gun works so much better, if you yell while you’re firing it, until I saw Rambo II. In fact, now that I’ve seen that new Transformers movie I realize everything works better if you yell while you’re using it. Think I’ll try that at work today. Neither the mouthy kid nor Optimus Prime made this list, though.

It Can Be Tough Being a Sci-Fi Fan

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I was chuckling at some of the visceral reactions some of the more ardent Harry Potter fans have toward any & all criticism of their beloved spectacled smartass Chosen One movie character…and suddenly I realized how much flogging and abuse the ego of the average Sci Fi and comic book fan must endure. It really is a national tragedy when you think about it.

The “stardates” are all over the place. How come Mary Jane Parker has to keep getting kidnapped? No way is that Clarice, in my book, if it isn’t Jodie Foster playing her. Batgirl is supposed to be Commissioner Gordon’s daughter. Kyle Reese cannot possibly be Connor’s dad. I’ve never liked “Freeze Breath” as a superpower. Starbuck’s a girl, and so is M. Harry Potter is scandalized by Christians as something “occult.” One more Jedi ghost at that damned Ewok celebration, and you have to get a whole new Special Edition. Do Clark Kent’s shoes go under the cape? Sulu comes out. People who obviously never read the books or seen the films keep calling Frodo Baggins “Bilbo.” Texas Hold’Em at Casino Royale, who do they think they’re kidding? Nipples on the Batman costume. Why is Padme Amidala lusting after a ten-year-old boy? Nineteen years waiting for Superman to come back, and he doesn’t even fight any real monsters. Gollum doesn’t move right, looks like Tony the Tiger from the old cereal commercials. Where’s Kirk’s brother? Wolverine’s way too tall. Vanessa Kensington was a fembot all along? A Walther P99 can’t make a propane tank explode, didn’t you see that Mythbusters episode? A good old-fashioned lead bullet should take care of Darth Maul right quick, how come no one thinks of that? Nobody can agree on whether Wonder Woman should wear shorts, or whether she really has an invisible jet. Why are Mulder and Scully chasing the “Monster of the Week,” they were just about to find out what the Government’s been doing! It’s “David Banner”…not Bruce…David! Han Solo of all people should know “parsec” is a unit of distance. Cyclops didn’t get nearly enough face-time. Lara Croft shouldn’t have a tattoo there! All those pervs out there starting their “Hermione Granger legality countdown” web sites. Daredevil just plain sucks, and so does Elektra. Dumbledore’s dead…oh no wait, he isn’t, he’s gay, oh no he isn’t, he’s dead again. And then there’s Lucas, stomping on your childhood memories for fun. Greedo shoots first. Jar Jar Binks. Midichlorians. Indiana Jones and the nuclear-proof refrigerator, and what are space aliens doing in one of his movies?

So many abandoned alternative timelines, so much disbelief to be suspended, so much disappointment…fandom. It’s not for the timid.

The Trouble with Harry

Monday, July 20th, 2009

For years and years, now, it’s been like an itch I can’t scratch. I’m not simply disinterested in Harry Potter, I don’t think; there’s something about the entire franchise that I loathe. It isn’t the occult, and it isn’t the cartoonishness or kid-friendliness or the silly names. It’s something else. Something I have not quite been able to put my finger on.

Until this morning.

Harry PotterTHE TROUBLE WITH HARRY
NO CHALLENGES, NO MORALS — POTTER IS THE PERFECT HERO FOR AN ENTITLED GENERATION

…Harry might be the blandest superhero ever conceived. He simply follows the trail, learns the spells and saves the day. Kids love to be in Harry’s shoes: all zapping bad guys, no taking out the trash.

Compare Luke Skywalker, who has to conquer his own vanity, laziness and anger in order to earn his powers. Harry, like many of his generation, is the Cosseted One from an early age. He’s told that he’s special, that he’s got awesome gifts, that those who don’t understand this are blind to the plain facts. Deploying his powers involves no more character or soul-searching than following a recipe. [emphasis mine]

Bulls-eye.

This is such an important distinction to be made in terms of how an individual goes about recognizing the world around him, and responding to it. That this is a profound disservice being done to the generation just coming up right now, is demonstrated easily through the observation that the distinction pries open that meaningful gap between one half of us and the other half of us, in just about everything that captures our passions.

Let’s take, as just one example, global warming — you’ve heard of it, it’s the doctrine that says the world is in awful danger from human activity and we can only save it by taxing ourselves. Half of us say “you know, that sounds to me like a scam, before we even get to the science part of it.” Sounds like a scam…to those who have been scammed before. Which means they’ve been living life, making stupid mistakes, and learning from them because nobody was around to protect them.

What is the retort from the other side? Who are you to dare to say such a thing? It’s the Harry Potter mindset. We have these designated people who have the “power” to solve the riddle, and everyone else is just a Muggle. All this stuff about what-proves-what and what-leaves-what-question-unsettled, is just a whole lot of static to them, because they’ve been brought up to think of the central question of life as not a what at all, but a who. This guy says that thing over there is good. That guy over there says this thing over here is bad. Those guys over there disagree…but they’re just a bunch of Bible-and-gun-hugging riff raff, pay no attention to them. That’s all we need to know. Put the right guys in the right places and you don’t need to think about anything ever again — sound familiar, Obama fans?

And to figure out who’s supposed to be in charge, you just keep your antenna up to figure out what the “scriptwriter wants to have happen.” Pick up that “vibe”; know the things everyone else knows, that they know because their everyone-else also knows about it.

To be fair about it, I’ve seen very little of Harry Potter. But this does jive with what I’ve seen. From the moment I first saw Dumbledore deliver his most meaningful speeches, he was abusing his schoolmaster authority to take points away from the other kids and give them to Harry & crew…and that was perfectly alright because Harry & crew were supposed to win.

Is there any commodity that surrounds us in such abundance and has effected for us such mind-boggling damage, that nevertheless consumes such a powerful energy in the manufacturing of an even greater toxic surplus of it, than the entitlement-minded generation?

Hat tip to Webutante.

Update: Didn’t realize this last night…it was just about the last thing I typed in before I went to bed, and the furthest thing from my mind this morning. But there’s a connection here, isn’t there?

The hypotheticals with which readers are challenged, have to do with taking off from work for a year or two. For cryin’ in the sink. For twenty-four months, you think the business concern won’t be facing some kind of a crisis? The prospective female boss takes off, goes home, does that “tough” work [of being a Mom]…Meanwhile, back at the office there’s a crisis. You’re not there. Someone else is. And it’s no fun for them…but there are some tough decisions to be made, decisions that require a real education about what’s goin’ on day to day, and a real personal sacrifice to get that education. Someone will be there to get it all done, while you’re being a Mom…and at the end of two years of that, you just want to show up and take “your” place at the top of the org chart? What. The. Hell.

Jack Welch dares to imply that Mahogany Row is filled up with people who have been learning the trade, doing work, making decisions and being present to make them — you don’t get to catapult yourself into the corner office after taking two years off for Mommy-hood. And for this, the feminists who normally are last in line to form any kinship with Mommy-hood, engage in their well-practiced screeching and How-Dare-You and Help-Me-Hate-This.

Perhaps it never was about motherhood at all. Perhaps it’s all got to do with Harry-Potter-ness. Nice to see everybody after two years, well done all you Muggles; now I’ve hired a Nanny, and I’m here to take my place.

Kinda gets back to What’s Wrong With The World, ya know? That whole thing I went on about, being-over-doing. Some of us think our value is in the things we do, and others seem to think the doing isn’t all that important because we’re all here just to fill some kind of role…to be, and not to do. Throughout all age brackets, these Harry Potter wannabe folks have a special hatred they can, uh, “conjure up” at a moment’s notice. Not just at the implication they should do some actual stuff, and/or be measured by the presence or absence of records of things done…but toward any statement to the effect that anybody else should either. Nope — the only thing being done is that Obama is gonna clean up Bush’s mess, and the rest of us are all gonna watch Him do it. That’s enough of this infernal “doing” for anybody. We’re just pieces on a chess board, without a game in play, just standing in our designated spots and being something.

Dead Celebrity Thread?

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Neal Boortz has good ideas. Now and then, anyway. And I’m given cause to think this might be one of his better ones: An open thread for comments about dead celebrities. As a lightning rod to discourage thread-jacking elsewhere.

Hasn’t been a problem here at all. This is The Blog That Nobody Reads, after all. Of course, there was that one incident over on Right Wing News…not sure at all whether threadkiller arthur_branch is a well-intentioned bumpkin or a threadjacking prick. One thing I do know for sure, is this:

I do NOT, repeat NOT, associate the name of Billy Mays with dumb ideas. Nope. Sorry. You’re not going to “sell” me on that idea. We’ve got cupboards and pantries stuffed full of OxyClean, a salad dressing bottle of it under the kitchen sink for those morning five-minute coffee-pot cleaning sessions. And a gravy jar full of the stuff at work, for the same purpose. OxyClean, there’s nothing like it. And I owe it all to Mr. Mays.

Billy Mays has had so much more of a genuinely positive impact on our lives, than some plastic-nosed, little-boy-raping pansy monkey-weirdo jackass.

Anyway, can The Blog That Nobody Reads have a useful open thread? Opine away. Charlie’s Angels, Kung Fu, your favorite infomercials, The Tonight Show…have at it. And don’t forget the lovely Natasha, who might very well have been the classiest of the bunch. She’s gone too, and went well before her time. One of those people about whom nobody can be found to say a single unkind word.

Thoughts?

Movie Montages That Make No Damn Sense

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Cracked, from, I dunno, awhile ago. Still good.

Every decade has its cinematic crutch; the overused device meant to distract us from the fact that the movie has stopped making any sort of sense. For the past 20 years, it has been CGI and in the 80s it was the montage. It’s helpful to think of the evolution of montage-use as the cinematic equivalent of cocaine. While it hasn’t completely gone away, in the 80s it was everywhere, and filmmakers apparently believed it gave them license to completely abandon all reason and logic. Here are the most simultaneously awesome and baffling …

Rocky I started it, I think. That one made sense, and as such it didn’t make the cut. But having all six Rocky movies, I can state for the record that they really are all the same movie, and some of those montages are just plain silly. The list maker chose to include III and IV. Eye of the Tiger and all that.

I don’t know why he stopped at six. I’m sure with some work you could get it up to 50, easily. But that’s for someone who has the time, and that isn’t me. Got my own “montage” I gotta go run.