Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sasquatch

You know it's bad news bears when even I don't feel like posting. bad news grizzly bears even. Anyway, here's a list of stuff that went down before, during, and after my adventure in central Washington this weekend, in order of least to most interesting. Kind of.

-on drive, listened to all Led Zeppelin's studio albums, in order
-made it in three and a half hours. mostly to spite nancy's mom
-drove home barefoot due to extremely waterlogged shoes
-took a nap on an indian reservation
-ran into, and hung out with, samuel higgins
-saw my first real-life bong
-was asked if I had a joint, twice
-decided, for very minimal reasons, that i hate yakima
-was nonplussed by rogue wave
-had more fun watching architecture in helsinki than any other band ever
-was throughly underwhelmed, even more than last time, by sufjan
-enjoyed iron & wine's set (he finished with my three favorite songs)
-witnessed barrel fires and slip and slides down hills (once on a picnic table)
-stayed until 1:45 to see the end of the flaming lips set
-decided wayne coyne is the best showman in the world
-jammed to ben harper like it was junior year all over again
-was standing in line, in shorts and a tshirt because it got really hot, to meet sam beam of iron & wine, when the worst hail storm i've ever experienced in my life hit. for ten-plus minutes, with two short respites.
-would not leave to find shelter or my coat, was saved by kindly gentleman with extra hat and jacket five or six minutes into storm
-met sam beam, who blew away all my expectations
-wished you were there

post script
the shins were good too. their keyboardist is a major tool though

Monday, May 22, 2006

For the girls



-Karolyn

THE DA VINCI CODE

If I had to nail down exactly what I thought about The Da Vinci Code, it’d probably be that I just felt it was wasted potential. You’re dealing with a massive story, probably one of the biggest you could tell while still giving it a real world setting (despite its massive factual errors, granted), with some of the biggest stars and best actors not just in the United States, but also abroad, and this is the film that results.

I’ve never read the book, but the idea behind it is interesting and exactly the kind of high concept needed for a summer flick – Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and fathered children, a secret that a sect of the Catholic Church has been covering up for centuries. There’s a lot else going on in the flick, but that’s the meat. There’s a big problem with making this the central mystery of the film, and that’s not just a problem because so many people read the book. Or that everyone who didn’t heard it from someone who had. It’s that they put it in the damn trailer, so you spend the first two thirds of the film watching two people solve a mystery you already know the outcome of. And by the time a big secret is revealed about a main character in the story at the end of the film (I’m not going to spoil it for the two of you who don’t know what I mean), you had that one figured out just as easily.

And plot-wise, none of this would bother me if the film was half as entertaining or engaging as the trailer led me to believe. See, with thrillers, you really have to go for two things. First, you have to engage the audience, keep them guessing and make them feel like they’re solving the mystery right along with the main characters. Then, you have to make it fun. Not always fun like the ball pit at Discovery Zone is fun (God knows Se7en was damn horrifying, but there is a fun there like akin to what you get from a jigsaw puzzle). The Da Vinci Code has neither. It explains every step of it so explicitly that any joy of discovery there might have been is instantly sucked from it. The worst instance is a monologue that explains the afore-mentioned big revelation about a main character that goes on forever, saying one single idea time and time again.

Instead of making a tightly-woven, smart thriller, and I think you can mostly blame director Ron Howard for this (whose best work, Apollo 13 and Cinderella Man, is emotion-centric), the flick spends a lot of time trying to make its religious ideas seem important and its characters far deeper than they are. Any fun the mystery could have is wiped away with constant reminders that “no, kids, it’s about Jesus.” There are flashbacks and backstories thrown in for absolutely no reason to try to pass as characterization, but they largely (especially Robert Langdon’s fear of small spaces and Silas’ troubled youth) have absolutely nothing to do with the story and do nothing to add to the characters. Unfortunately, the actors largely can’t save it. Tom Hanks is an actor who, I think, does his best work in comedy, but when he hits his dramatic notes, he really hits them. This is not such an instance. His Robert Langdon is obviously smart (most of his dialogue is him explaining concepts to people who really should know them…but really, that’s most of the dialogue of the film altogether), but he’s horribly boring, which is the worst quality a main character can have. There are a couple fine comedic hits with Ian McKellen that make the character moderately interesting, but for the most part he’s just drab, and mostly just in place to have someone to solve mysteries for or with the audience.

Audrey Tautou is about as popular as French actresses get in the states, and while she’s never looked hotter onscreen than she does here, she’s never been less interesting (although I’m really just every other American and have only seen her in Amelie and A Very Long Engagement). Even Alfred Molina, a fantastic actor whether it’s in a cameo in Boogie Nights or the villain in Spider-Man, has almost nothing to do in the entire film and makes almost nothing of it. Paul Bettany’s Silas is creepy, but never once feels threatening. Only Ian McKellen manages to show that he developed a real, interesting, layered character, and I wish the film was about him because I might have enjoyed it much more.

What does the film do well? Conspiracy, murder, mystery, intrigue, though that is few and far between. The fun stuff. Had they just given into the ridiculousness of the plot and made it a full-on thriller, I would’ve been all for it. The thriller aspect is also overshadowed by an underlying epic story. And with a story like this, you really have to go for full-on epic or down-and-dirty thriller, and the film tries to strike a balance between the two. It might be possible, but The Da Vinci Code suggests otherwise. There are some fine moments in the film; like I said, even though nearly all of Ian McKellen’s work is there to tell Hanks the answer, he makes it damn compelling to watch. There’s a scene with Paul Bettany in a church that’s pretty cool, purely because Silas is so damn crazy (and watching him pray…that was wacky). But the problem here is the most interesting scenes are those involving supporting characters. And yeah, it’s not abnormal that the bad guys will be more interesting, but it doesn’t make it impossible to overcome. Look at Die Hard, the one that practically invented the suave European villain, but you still can’t wait for Bruce Willis to show up again.

So like I said, it largely feels like a waste. There’s a lot of talent here (Cinderella Man was one of my favorite movies of last year, and I love every member of the cast), but everyone seemed to treat it like a paid vacation to Europe. The filmmakers put so much effort into not offending anyone that they sucked any fun the concept could have had, resulting in a what equates cinematically to a dull leading man solving the morning word jumble. Worst of all, by the end of it he’s handed all the answers, as is the audience, creating a thriller without a single thrill to be found.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Halo

Got a good idea talking to Ben just now. He was telling me all of the fun you guys were having without me, playing Halo and stuff, and it dawned on me, the ultimate way for me to chill with you guys without leaving Ithaca: Online Halo. Anybody who wants in, tell me, and I'll send them the CDs. We can get private games, so it'd just be us. But this way, Pat, me, and anybody else who is either not in PDX or too lazy can play. Granted, its no Halo 2, and its not on Scott's big-ass tv, but it is Halo, and you don't have to use the crappy X-box controls. Anyway, think about it, I'll get CDs made.

PS: So mac users are kinda screwed, I guess... Dammit, Ben, you shoulda bought a PC.

Monday, May 08, 2006

I'm really excited about The Fountain, you guys might be as well.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0414993/
http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/thefountain/

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III

Oddly, spending a year in film school has not made me hate the blockbuster. Rather, spending a year amongst snobs who insist on trash European art films over Robocop has made me love the blockbuster, and especially the action movie, oh so much more.

First, I believe FIRMLY in entertainment. I don’t care how smart it is, how “emotionally engaging” it is or how well-developed the characters are. If a movie that is so clearly setting out to entertain you does that, then it’s absolutely worth your time and money.

If you want a deeper, theoretical idea, action is the one genre in film that really, truly cannot be done in any other form. I know, I know, you can discuss on end the differences in storytelling and experience between theater and novel and film. But in the end, you can tell the same STORY of Lost in Translation in a play. Almost Famous would make a wonderful book. But you can’t, with any level of success, do Terminator 2 as a play. The action scenes in Kill Bill wouldn’t translate as a novel.

And for this reason, above all others, action is a worthy form of cinema. Well, besides the fact that they’re just fun as shit to watch. Action movies are FUN.

Which brings me to Mission: Impossible III, a movie that’s about as good as summer movies come. Look, the first line of the movie is “We’ve planted an explosive charge in your head.” That’s either going to grab you or it’s not. After that, it just keeps moving. If you thought War of the Worlds slowed down too much by the time Tom Cruise met Tim Robbins in that basement, THIS MOVIE IS FOR YOU. If you thought Spider-Man 2 spent too much time on a love subplot, THIS MOVIE IS FOR YOU. This is about cool dudes and hot babes falling off buildings and shooting people with impossible accuracy. It’s about a form of storytelling in which the answer to any given problem is to blow it up.

And the cast is fantastic. Phillip Seymour Hoffman especially, in a typical blockbuster role following an Oscar win, but yet he still delivers the Hoffman excellence. He’s my favorite actor out there, and in everything I’ve seen him in he’s yet to deliver a bad performance, or even one he seems at all less committed to. Same goes here.

And Tom Cruise. I didn’t really wanna go here but…Go ahead, make the Tom Cruise joke in your head. MAKE IT. Done it? Good, I don’t want to hear it. It’s not funny. It’s not clever. Every single joke that can possibly be made has been, and none of them are funny. They’re all obvious. But if you can’t separate an actor or actress from his or her personal life, not only should you avoid Mission: Impossible III, you shouldn’t be watching movies. Any movie. Ever. You’re obviously not cut out to understand the concept of acting. I love Tom Cruise. I’ve always loved Tom Cruise. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie with him I haven’t liked, if only for his work in it. He’s one of the most charismatic actors out there, and I love watching him onscreen. And even though it’s been ten years since the first Mission: Impossible, he’s as much an action star today as he was then. If anything, he’s gotten better. It’s kind of a personal preference, but the older and more weathered the star of an action movie, the more I like them. It gives them a certain edge. And while Cruise certainly isn’t old or weathered or even looking forty-four, it comes out in the right places. He has an edge that he didn’t in the first film (I’ve forgotten almost all of the second…it blew chunks).

But Cruise’s best move was in tapping JJ Abrams to direct. Abrams has never directed a feature film before, but did create Alias and Lost (two TV shows I’ve never seen). Somewhere in there, Cruise saw the potential and damn was he right. The film as a whole moves like hell, but the action is better filmed than most I’ve seen, and he holds a shot longer than most action directors would, which gives us a better idea that it’s really happening. In his quick cuts, though, he never loses that edge, and never once loses the flow of narrative, which happens ALL THE TIME in action movies. You’ll be watching a car chase, or a fight scene especially, and you either just cannot figure out what the hell is going on (Batman Begins) or the last motions of one shot don’t carry over to the next (The Bourne Supremacy, though that was saved by having the best car chase ever). That never happens here. From the biggest set pieces to the smallest, it’s the slickest movie I’ve seen in awhile.

Speaking of slick…I saw this out at Bridgeport (a place I will never again return…worst seating ever), which was showing it in digital, which I hadn’t seen a big-screen presentation of yet, but damn did it look slick. If you get a shot to check out this or any other big, flashy summer movie in digital…do it. It makes a huge difference.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Contest

I'll give 50 bucks to whosever first to post a picture of a baby they can prove is genetically their own. Yep, that's a Ulysses S. Grant ladies and gentlemen. Go!

post script
This is so going to come back and bite me when I'm an impoverished med student (knock on wood.)

post post script
Oh yeah, dibs on godfather.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Well I for one am now a Saint's fan

Mike Hass got drafted yesterday by the New Orleans Saints, who also drafted Reggie Bush. Rumor has it, Bush put a good word in for Hass to the Saints coaches, and convinced them to pick Hass up also. Hass was picked in the 6th round, but was supposed to be picked sooner. His lack of explosive speed is worrisome, and prohibited him from being ranked as high as he should.

In other news, I'm pretty sure I did not get the job to be an RA over the summer here at Cornell, so unfortuantely, I will probably not be coming home this summer. Unless things change, which is very possible, I'll pick up a sublet and find some part-time jobs around campus. Prospects include setting up chairs for reunion weekend and being a Facilitator at the challenge course which is a chill boot-camp-y thing with walls and towers and climbing and zip lining and stuff. It'll be fun. I know you all will miss me, and I will sure as hell miss all of you. There is still the possibility that I'll still be able to mooch off my rich friend's homes, but really don't see that as likely now. Anyway, what are y'all doing this summer? Kinda want to know, even if I won't be there.

DC Part 2: Genocide is Bad, mmmkay?

Well, I went to Washington DC again this weekend with 50 other kids from Marquette. We're part of DAC, the Darfur Action Coalition of Marquette. Think Nick Ohio on steroids and with a petition, and that's the DAC. Anyway. We took a 15 hour bus trip down to DC to go to this huge rally featurng keynote speakers Barak Obama and George Clooney. Also, Al Sharpton was there for some reason. All told there were something like 40 speakers and 2 musical acts (country and African music, sorry nobody cool and hip for you hipster indie kids), so it was quite the rally.

The bus ride down and back was pretty, for lack of a better word, interesting. Since the bus was full to capacity, nobody could really sleep for more than 10 or 15 minutes. That wasn't too much of a problem since people brought DVDs and we found out how to get those little bus TVs to work. So yeah I watched Anchorman for the 1,592nd time. And it was still good. Thanks to the group's strict "no pooping" law we made it to DC and back without the bus smelling too horrible. We also learned that the best way to pep up for a rally is to get a blue slushee from a truck stop and mix in sour patch kids, then pass that sucker around like hippies and a peace pipe. (By the way Ben, I did play Peace Train but only the 4 or so people near me heard it. I tried sir, I tried.)

The rally kicked ass. It was sunny and 70, so people were out in force-- I'm not sure of the exact number, but here's some pictures.







Unfortunately because my camera sucks, I couldn't get any closeups of the speakers. If anyone's interested in seeing a hi-res closeup of Al Sharpton for some reason, I can probably steal it from Jeff K. or Kate's cameras.

Since this was a genocide rally, the Jewish community was out in force. It was pretty interesting to see signs that said stuff like "JEWISH VEGANS AGAINST GENOCIDE", and every other sign was written in Hebrew. My favorite sign is still the large bold one that stated simply "GENOCIDE IS UNCOOL."

Bonus pic of a guy who climbed a tree with his sign.




So yeah, if you ever get a chance to go to a protest/rally in DC go for it. It's quite the experience. You meet a lot of cool people, get to see some pretty interestng stuff, and you get to feel good about doing your duty as a citizen (or something). That's all for this update from A's varied travelouge (now 90% Washington DC related!), I'm gonna go to class and then crash 'cause I haven't slept since Friday morning when I had to wake up early to help push a humvee up a hill, which is another story for another time. Shh I got a free t-shirt and a cup okay?