14 February 2011


I realize that this post will make some of you think of me as foolish, yet I post anyway.

I am currently out of town, in New York, for work.  I love, love, love this city.  The reason for my post, however, has only coincidental ties to New York.  Continuing my inexplicable run of reading books with the word Girl/Boy/Man/Woman/Guy/Gal in the title, I brought two books with me: Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon and The Last Boy by Jane Leavy.  Chabon is an author I greatly admire, even if some of his books drive me nuts.  I've read most of his work, but I skipped Wonder Boys because I had already seen the movie numerous times.  The Last Boy is a recent biography of Mickey Mantle, which received across-the-board rave reviews.  I rarely read biographies, and I like the Yankees only slightly more than small pox, but I always wanted to understand why he was such a hero to so many.  After about 100 pages, it's easy to see why.

The odd parallel of these books, other than the word Boy in the titles, is the word poliomyelitis.  I had never seen this word in my life until my flight on Sunday, and I consider myself well-read.  I tend to read a few books at once (or more) and started both on the flight.  In the first twenty five pages of each book, poliomyelitis (or poliomyelitic) was used to describe children (Mickey, in The Last Boy) with serious leg problems.  For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how I had never heard that word before now.  It stuck with me for a couple of days before my dumb ass realized both authors were talking about POLIO.  Yes, polio.  I could use a shot of penicillin for my stupidity.  For some reason, I have a hard time recognizing when people shorten or abbreviate words.  And don't get me started on acronyms.  I almost always think they're real words.

Doctor Zhivago is on again in my hotel room.  No more writing.

09 February 2011

Ice Cold Mashed Potatoes

All I want to do is put a couple layers of sweats on, get under some blankets, and hibernate until the warm temperatures come back.  I'm so happy it's supposed to get back to the 50s next week.

-I really enjoyed this collection of what the movie posters would say if the Best Picture nominees told the truth.  Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Inception were my favorites, even though Inception was crap.

-I mentioned a while back that the AV Club's Random Roles series is one of my favorite features on the internet.  They published a new edition with Delroy Lindo yesterday, which is interesting as always.  Lindo stars in The Chicago Code, a new show on Fox that debuted last night.  I enjoyed it.  The reason I point out this particular interview is the attention paid to one of my favorite overlooked movies: Crooklyn.  Crooklyn seemed to fall through the cracks a bit because it wasn't like the Spike Lee movies people were used to.  It's a very personal story of a family in Brooklyn in the 70s.  The soundtrack has long been a favorite (El Pito!) and was the reason I saw the movie in the first place.  Alfre Woodard carries the movie, but that is not to demean the other performances, writing or direction, all of which are excellent.  It's just that Ms. Woodard has a tendency to bring everything she appears in up a level or two.  Such a great actress.

-I loved this talk Stephen Fry gave on Catholicism.  I don't want to offend anyone, but the Catholic Church has done plenty to offend others through the years.

-I haven't written about music much lately, as I haven't been listening to a whole lot of new stuff.  The new Iron & Wine album has been on heavy rotation, however.  While it's a complete departure from the normal Iron & Wine sound, I love it.  It's the type of album that sounds great cranked up in the car.  The other recent album with a lot of play lately is the latest from Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues.  The title track, in particular, 

-Season 2 of Justified starts on FX Wednesday night.  WATCH IT!!!!!

-I watched a few more older movies this weekend.  Quick takes as follows:
   *Ryan's Daughter - Another David Lean movie that pales in comparison to his more famous epics.  It's the story of a love triangle in a small Irish town during the first World War and leading up to the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland.  Why Lean decided this story needed nearly three and a half hours to be told is a mystery.  He needed about ninety minutes.  The greater concern is the world he creates.  Two thirds of the love triangle, played by Sarah Miles and Robert Mitchum, feel like actual human beings.  As does the local priest, wonderfully played by Trevor Howard.  The other third of said triangle is one of the stiffest performances I've ever seen put to film.  Even worse is the rest of the townspeople, apparently put in place to serve as the most annoying Greek chorus of all time.  They operate as a massive caricature that goes around doing nothing independent of each other.  The fit is bizarre.  Even more bizarre is the Best Supporting Actor Oscar John Mills received for playing the village idiot.  Mills apparently went to clown school to train for his part, which is completely void of nuance.  I cringed every time he came on the screen.  If you watch this movie after reading this review, please note that your are your own village's idiot.
  *Becket - I sometimes complain about overacting in older movies (and newer - see Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood).  Sometimes I'm probably being a little harsh, but sometimes I feel like movies have simply changed for the better over the years, justifying my criticism.  But sometimes actors chew the scenery, and all I want is more.  That was the case with Becket, featuring Peter O'Toole clearly having a blast playing Henry II.  Richard Burton is great as the titular Thomas Becket, but O'Toole steals the movie in a showier part.  The movie follows the relationship between the two men as both friends and adversaries.  It's rich material for two great actors.  Worth a look.
  *The Great Dictator - This was Chaplin's first, and I think only, "talkie".  While aspects of it are hilarious, it didn't work nearly as well as a whole compared to his classic silent films Modern Times or City Lights (I haven't seen others).  I still enjoyed it.  The backstory of the movie intrigued memore than the movie itself, though.  It was released in 1940 and features Chaplin playing a version of his Little Tramp character, as well as a dictator of a fictional European country who bears a strong resemblance to Hitler.  Chaplin was early in recognizing the danger Hitler represented to the rest of the world, and he put his money and reputation on the line to make this movie as a warning to the world about Hitler.  The most powerful part of the movie, even though it doesn't fit the rest of the film, is the speech he gives at the end.  It's a wonderful speech that would be a wonderful message to any society at any point in history.  The problem is that it distracts from the rest of the movie.  Regardless, I enjoyed the speech, as well as the two hours or so that preceded it.  I highly recommend listening to the final speech, even if you don't plan on seeing the movie: 

04 February 2011

Snowy Mashed Potatoes

-I feel obligated to say it snowed the other day.  A lot.  The only time I left my place from Monday night to Thursday morning was to run up to the QuikTrip (6 blocks away) in the middle of the blizzard, as I was dying for something other than turkey sandwiches and cereal.  I was walking faster than the cars were driving, the roads were so bad.  Then again, I only saw one car before I got to Main Street.

-Since I know this blog readership extends to many television executives, I would like to give them a tip: Never allow your show to cast Will Forte in a guest role.  He is a vortex of anti-funny.  He guest starred tonight on Parks & Recreation, which went from crappy in season one to one of the funniest shows on TV in season two.  Season three has been fantastic so far, but tonight's Forte scenes slowed the show to a crawl.  He's not my least favorite SNL cast member of all-time (Armisen, then Sanz), but he's up near the top of the list.  Fortunately, Parks & Rec was still a very funny episode.  Anything Rob Lowe says cracks me up, but Andy is my favorite character.  
-If you've never seen The Thin Man, please go to your Netflix queue and move it up to the top.  It was on during one of the blizzard days, ensuring I would have a good day.  William Powell's half-drunk former detective Nick Charles is pitch perfect, especially alongside Myrna Loy as the also tipsy Nora Charles.  The shit-eating grin on their faces as they deliver their bitter sarcasm gives me the giggles every time I watch, which is fairly often.  I think it was the third time I watched it in six months.  One of my favorites.

-Two other movies I watched while stuck at home didn't work for me at all.  Army of Darkness, the third movie in the Evil Dead series, had always been the movie in that series I heard I would like the most.  I understand what they're doing with the over-the-top action and campy humor, but it's not my thing.  I can't believe the guy who directed it also did the Spider-Man movies.  And Darkman, which is awesome.

On a completely different level, I watched 3 Women, the 1977 Robert Altman film with Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek.  Having seen nothing but great reviews for it (95% at Rotten Tomatoes), I recorded it on my DVR.  Kinda wish I hadn't done that.  After reading some of the reviews, I'm convinced everyone who liked the movie was on some major hallucinogens.  All the symbolism they saw in it was just a bunch of uninteresting, delusional people being annoying for a little more than two hours.  I love most Altman movies, but this one was pretentious crap.

-In my downtime, I was also able to finish The Girl Who Played with Fire, which didn't live up to the first book in the series but stayed suspenseful.  The plot was not nearly as tight as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  The characters kept it moving, however, especially when Lisbeth Salander is involved.  The Salander-less sections were a bit too many in this installment, so I'm hoping she's in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest from start to finish.

-TGWPWF was the third book in a row that I read with the word Girl in it, in addition to The Pint Man before it.  As a result, I decided to keep with the trend and only read books with the word Girl, Woman, Man, Boy, Guy, or Gal in the title.  Quite nerdy, I know, but it gives me an excuse to read some books I've been meaning to read for years, and I think I have 6 or 7 already lined up to read.  Should be fun.  

-That picture at the top is Parker Posey in Waiting for Guffman, one of my 5 favorite comedies.  She works at Dairy Queen.  DQ makes Blizzards.  We had a blizzard the other night.  Which is really just a means for me to tell you to watch Waiting for Guffman again.  It gets funnier every time.  That could be because when my parents took my grandma, Pope, to see it in the theater, she laughed so hard we missed half the movie.  It was a lot funnier the second time I saw it, and every time since.  Christopher Guest's line at about the 40 second mark here may be the movie quote I've used more than any other:

-If you hadn't figured it out, I'm going to call the hodgepodge posts Mashed Potatoes if I don't have a real theme for them.

01 February 2011

Mashed Potatoes

-After rewatching Doctor Zhivago and Ninotchka yesterday, both about Russians, everyone in my dreams last night had a Russian accent.  Why, then, do many of the actors speak with British accents, while others give the Russian accent a go.  I always find it humorous that "serious" acting often calls for a British accent, whether the movie take place in Russia, Rome, or elsewhere.  This phenomenon is mostly a thing of the past, but it still happens.  The HBO show Rome is just one example.

-You would be correct in guessing that the last bullet point was a gratuitous excuse to put another Julie Christie picture on here.  

-I forgot to mention the aspect of Biutiful that stuck out the most: Javier Bardem's head.  I'm convinced his head is twice the size of a regular human being.  Maybe it was the lion's mane of a haircut he wore, but it looked massive to me.  It helped distract a little bit from all the terrible stuff happening in the movie.  The haircut is a huge improvement from his do in No Country for Old Men.

-Forgot to mention last week that I read Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, as historical novel based on the famed Johannes Vermeer painting.  The concept is interesting, as she researched the background of the painting and developed an "origin story" for it, to use a comic book term (possibly the first and last comic book reference to appear on this blog).  Unfortunately, the concept doesn't translate to a great book.  It loses steam fairly quickly, but at just over 200 pages, I still enjoyed it a bit.