Archive for February 26, 2009

How technology improves

When I was a little kid, you used to have to wait for your TV to warm up, because that big ol’ tube didn’t just turn on all at once.

Then technology improved and you could just turn on the TV.

Then technology improved again and now I have a DVR. And have to wait for my hard drive to warm up.

Hothouse Flowers

So I’ve got this new acupuncturist I’m seeing, which I’ll tell you more about later. But she’s a total healthfood nut. I must! eat only whole grains. I must! give up coffee. I must! change my lifestyle, eat a good breakfast, not eat after six p.m., increase my carbs in relation to my other foods, eat only organic, drink more water, transform myself into her except GOD I HOPE much cuter.

And she said to me something that I’ve heard from many healthfood nuts in the past. She said, because I should be eating only organic foods, I should be eating at home. “When I go out to eat,” she said, “I get sick.”

Excuse me? You get sick when you get out. I don’t. This is evidence that you’re healthier than me?

This hypervigilant organic-only diet turns you into a hothouse flower, delicate to a fault to any exposure to the outside world. Me? I’m a dandelion. I thrive anywhere and everywhere. Which is better? I dunno, but I sure like being able to leave the hothouse.

Oscar-winner trivia all done!

Good job, folks. Melville kicked it.

» Read more..

Tuesday Trivia: Oscar winners

Name the actor. Roles listed are not necessarily Oscar-winning roles, but each actor has at least one naked gold man on his or her mantle.

1. A superhero. A supervillain. A covert political operative. A real-life movie star (made for TV movie).
Solved by Melville (comment #17).

2. A Quaker. The new husband of a Quaker. A fake suicide.
Solved by Melville (comment #1).

3. A princess. A beatnik-turned-model. A mother superior.
Solved by Melville (comment #1).

4. A supervillain. A real-life singer. A cuckolded husband.
Solved by Trevor J. (comment #4).

5. A mother superior. The mother of a rabbi.A philandering music-hall performer.
Solved by Evn (comment #9).

6. A murderer on death row. A newly-inducted soldier about to ship out. A jazz guitarist.
Solved by Melville (comment #1).

7. The First Lady. A painter. A wealthy daughter planning her father’s party.
Solved by Melville (comment #17). (But maurinsky knew it.)

Monday Movie Review: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile) (2007) 10/10
In 1987, in Romania, abortion is illegal and the populace, under Ceau?escu, is tightly controlled. Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) helps her college roommate Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) obtain an abortion. (In Romanian, with subtitles)

In 2007, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days won the Palm d’or, which is the Cannes Film Festival’s “best picture” award. Despite its extraordinary acclaim, it wasn’t even on the shortlist of films considered for the Best Foreign Language Oscar nomination. Not just wasn’t nominated; wasn’t submitted. Which created a long series of discussions in online film blogs about how the Foreign Language films are selected for Academy Awards and how Byzantine the process is, and that’s how this remarkable film came to my attention.

During the course of the film, there is at one point an extended discussion about how far along Gabita is. The abortionist (Vlad Ivanov) believes Gabita has lied to him. Perhaps she has. She wants an abortion and doesn’t want anything to interfere. Is two months easier? Is three? What if it’s a second trimester abortion? The abortionist points out his jail sentence would be much worse if he were caught. He is angry, he uses the lie to browbeat the young women. Although it is never explained, the suggestion is that the film’s title describes the actual length of the pregnancy.

I don’t watch many foreign films, not because I’m plebeian (which I am), but because I feel like I can’t truly grasp the filmmaker’s intention. Seen in Romania, the repressive, oppressive, Big Brother regime of the 1980s is utterly familiar. Seen in the U.S., I am learning as I go. Are there things the filmmaker took for granted that his audience would know? Am I missing the context? When I watched With a Friend Like Harry, I wondered, was Harry’s sex talk at the dinner table a sign of his poor boundaries? Or a sign that it’s a French film? Of course, I sometimes have that experience with U.S. films. Like The Apostle; I spent most of the movie thinking What? What? Why? What? Texas revival Christianity is a foreign language to me, just as Romanian is.

But then, if you avoid foreign films entirely, you miss jaw-dropping movies like 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. It’s the naturalism, perhaps, that is so amazing. The movie takes place over the single day of the abortion. The women wax their legs, bum cigarettes, pack, complain to each other. There is no music at all, no beauty to be seen, and tension builds from nowhere, from the simple facts of the matter. Gabita appears to be not very bright; too helpless by half. Otilia helps her because she is smarter and more able, but also because she knows that it is important to help your friends when they need help. As the film progresses, we see her anger, and her fear, and how very dangerous this all is.

This is a dark movie, with seriously disturbing images. Watching it before bedtime was a mistake. But it’s an amazing movie, one that should definitely be seen.

Normal business travelers

There’s a commercial I’ve been hearing on the radio for some kind of premium for business travelers. I am not the best advertising audience in my pre-caffeinated state; I don’t know which hotel chain is being advertised, but it’s something about a free stay after ten stays.

And the spin is, hey, you’re being rewarded for things business travelers already do. So “it’s like being rewarded for wearing a tie. Or like being rewarded for shaving. Or like being rewarded for putting on pants.”

What do these things have in common. Umm….I know!

They’re things male business travelers do.

Now I grant you, female business travelers often put on pants. But they also often put on pantyhose. And makeup. And that wasn’t in the commercial.

Once again, the default person is male. And you know what? I must have heard that commercial ten times before I realized the problem. Because “the patriarchy, you’re soaking in it.” Because I, too, think of the default person as male, despite a lifetime of feminism. Sigh.

Round Robin Trivia: Starts with “A”

One clue of any kind leads to a movie starting with “A” (“the” doesn’t count). Whoever guesses it leaves the next clue.

You know, you see a girl a couple of times a week, just for laughs, and right away they think you’re going to divorce your wife. Now I ask you, is that fair?

Monday Movie Review: Man on Wire

Man on Wire (2008) 9/10
Philippe Petit, after six years of planning, successfully walked a high wire across the Twin Towers in 1974. Documentary.

There is no end to the charm and delight of Man on Wire. Here is a man utterly unlike you and me: A man who has dedicated his entire life to living art; he is a performance piece. He is not an adventurer, a psychotic with a death wish, or a circus freak. If you can’t accept that premise, you can’t really get into the movie.

Which you should, because it’s awesome. The movie practically made itself. Petit was interested in filming his work from the beginning, and so there is tons of footage for director James Marsh to put together. The project began before the towers were even built; when Philippe saw a sketch of the World Trade Center, before construction began, he knew that he had to walk across them.

Petit is a unique high-wire artist in that he is self-taught. Most such performers are raised in high-wire families, generally in the circus, and while Petit has worked in the circus, he came to it on his own. This gives him a completely different attitude towards his art than other high-wire performers have, and thus he came to the idea of public, illegal walks on landmarks and important public structures.

The first such walk he did was across the towers of Notre Dame in Paris, his home city. All the components of the Twin Towers walk were there, if in smaller scale; the planning with a group of friends, acquiring equipment, breaking in, and filming/photographing the whole event. But nothing in Paris or Sydney could approach the scale and complexity of the New York walk. How would the equipment be smuggled into the building? How would the wire get across from one tower to the other? How would Philippe manage the intense winds at such a height? All of this had to be planned.

At first, we see that Philippe is not long on planning. He wants spontaneity. As a result, his first attempt failed. But his team includes friends with greater attention to detail, and ultimately, famously, the whole thing came together.

My one complaint about Man on Wire is that the way documentary and recreated footage are placed together is confusing. It actually took me a while to figure out how to watch the film. It didn’t occur to me that Petit’s crew had actually been filming themselves for all these years; a little remark to that effect would have gone a long way.

September 11 is never mention in Man on Wire. It doesn’t need to be; we all know where those towers are now. But wherever we thought they were, they are now also a part of this joyful and bouyant film.

Dollhouse was…

not very good. I don’t even know what else to say. If it was anyone but Whedon, I wouldn’t be giving this show a second chance.

And for as much as I loved Dushku as Faith, the only sense of a real actor in the entire show was Harry Lennix. Everyone else was just being a pretty face.

Obama versus Vader

I kid you not. These action figures are Teh Awesome. (h/t House Next Door)