Friday, August 29, 2008

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Hollywood to be born?

Disaster Movie, the latest cinematic abortion produced by writer/director/crapmasters Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, opens today, and if you actually pay to see it in the theater, you are a bad person. There is no wiggle room here. Seriously. This is a Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll-level indictment of your worthiness as a human being.

Friedberg and Seltzer are the pathetically talentless duo responsible for Epic Movie, about which I had a thing or two to say, and Meet the Spartans, which Slate's Josh Levin eviscerated in one of the funniest negative reviews I've ever read:

This was the worst movie I've ever seen, so bad that I hesitate to label it a "movie" and thus reflect shame upon the entire medium of film. Friedberg and Seltzer do not practice the same craft as P.T. Anderson, David Cronenberg, Michael Bay, Kevin Costner, the Zucker Brothers, the Wayans Brothers, Uwe Boll, any dad who takes shaky home movies on a camping trip, or a bear who turns on a video camera by accident while trying to eat it. They are not filmmakers. They are evildoers, charlatans, symbols of Western civilization's decline under the weight of too many pop culture references.
Awesome. "A bear who turns on a video camera by accident while trying to eat it." That immediately joins the grand pantheon of brilliantly vicious pans, which also includes:

Roger Ebert on North: "I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it."

Bloom County's Opus as movie critic: "George Phblat's new film, 'Benji Saves the Universe,' has brought the word 'bad' to new levels of badness. Bad acting. Bad effects. Bad everything. This bad film just oozed rottenness from every bad scene. Simply bad beyond all infinite dimensions of possible badness."

Family Guy's Cleveland on Skeet Ulrich: "There is nothing good about who you are or what you do."

James Downey on Adam Sandler in Billy Madison: "Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Me on Committed: "This show is bitterest poison. It should be banned by the protocols established by the Geneva Convention. I hate it. I hate everyone associated with it, I hate myself for watching it, and I hate you for reading about it."

Although truly no invective foul enough exists to adequately describe how awful Friedberg and Seltzer and their movies are. And I'm sure that will hurt their feelings, if they happen to read it in between rolling around on their giant piles of money.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why would women talk about anything other than men, anyway?

Inspired by Johnny Bacardi (who was inspired by elsewhere), I want to take a crack at this meme-type thing regarding women in film.

It involves the not-at-all pretentiously named Bechdel-Wallace test, which assesses how inclusive a film is towards women. In order to pass, a film must contain:

1) At least two named female characters,
2) ... who have a conversation,
3) ... which is not about a man.

So the deal is, pick five of your favorite films. How do they fare in the Bechdel-Wallace test? My suspicion is not very well. Let's see!

Johnny already did Citizen Kane (FAIL), so I'll start with...

1. Casablanca: The film has three named female characters, Ilsa, Yvonne, and Annina (the woman trying to get an exit visa from Renault), but I don't believe they ever speak to one another. FAIL.

2. McCabe & Mrs. Miller: I'd have to rewatch to confirm it, but I'm pretty sure Mrs. Miller has talks with her prostitutes (including Ida, played by Shelley Duvall) which aren't specifically about men. Not that a madame and her passel of prostitutes is necessarily the progressive representation of women this test is looking for, but still. WIN.

3. Chinatown: I believe that Evelyn and Katherine have at least one exchange, if brief, while packing to flee town, but I'm not 100% sure on that. UNDECIDED

4. Unforgiven: Prostitutes again, but they speak to each other several times -- mainly about hiring a gunfighter, yes, but I don't think that that counts as "about a man" in the way the test means. I'm calling it a WIN.

5. The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy and Glinda the Good Witch have a couple of chats, as do Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West (which I'm counting as a named character: last name West, first name Wicked Witch of the), and Dorothy and Auntie Em, and Auntie Em and Miss Gulch... this one is all kinds of WIN.

Well, that's three out of five, but in two of those films just about the only female characters are whores, so that probably violates the spirit of the test, if not the letter. I've only got one real slamdunk here, and it's a children's movie.

Now that I think about it, not a lot of movies would pass this test, and certainly very few big releases. I mean, let's look at the movies I've seen this year and see how they stack up.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: FAIL

Iron Man: FAIL

The Dark Knight: FAIL

Hancock: FAIL

Step-Brothers: FAIL

Pineapple Express: FAIL

Tropic Thunder: FAIL

Hell, even in Waitress, which I recently reviewed, the majority of the conversations among the rich and interesting female characters revolve around men in some way. Dang, good thing I'm allowed to see movies that fail this test, or I'd never go to the theater!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tom Petty -- Post-Show

Had a fantastic time at the Tom Petty concert last night. Great, great show from Petty and the Heartbreakers. The set list was very similar to the one I posted yesterday, except they cut "Gloria" out of the encore, and, in a bit of a disappointment, Steve Winwood didn't join him for a couple of songs, as he has been doing frequently throughout the tour. (I'll print the full set list here once it gets posted on Petty's website, for future historians to appreciate.) (EDIT: Apparently, they're posting just about every set list from this tour except for the show I went to.)

But I finally got to see Petty live, and that was all that mattered. He rocked my face quite handily.

A few notes on the show:

--The approach to the Verizon Amphitheatre could not have been more poorly laid out. You would think: gigantic amphitheatre, approximately 20,000 capacity... perhaps some consideration should be made to the amount of traffic this will generate. But no: for about the last mile and a half, there's just a little two-lane country road in the middle of pastures and goat farms leading up to the venue. We were stuck in a line of barely-moving cars for almost forty damn minutes, which resulted in me missing almost the entirety of Winwood's set. All I caught were the last two songs, "Dear Mr. Fantasy" and "Gimme Some Lovin'." And he sounded great. I hate that I missed so much of his performance. Next time I go to the Verizon, I think I'll park a couple miles away and bring some roller skates.

--My buddy Brian and I had lawn tickets, but when we got to the lawn section, there was a table set up that said, "Upgrades $10." So we paid twenty bucks and got tickets to move up to the covered seats. Totally worth it. Especially when you consider if I had paid for a similar upgrade online, it would've run me more like $40 or $50 extra.

--It was oppressively humid, topping out, according to, at 83%. According to scientists, standing underneath a steaming hot shower for 20 minutes only reaches 80% humidity, so you can understand how bad it was. That's not true at all, of course, but that's what it felt like.

--Petty was wearing black boots, black jeans, and a black long-sleeved shirt. I suspect his wardrobe combined with the humidity may have contributed to he (and Winwood) cutting a couple songs from the show. Not that he looked all that put out by the mugginess. He is a Florida boy, after all; he's probably used to much worse, now that I think about it. ( says Gainesville, FL, Petty's hometown, hit 93% humidity yesterday morning. Yikes.)

--Beers were nine dollars. Nine goddam dollars. For a 24 oz. Miller Lite. Yeah.

--"American Girl" is just about the best fucking song ever.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tom Petty -- Pre-Show

Hey folks! I'm going to the Tom Petty show tonight! Jealous? You're jealous.

It's at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Selma, just outside of San Antonio, about an hour and a quarter from Austin (considering I'll be heading down during rush hour, maybe two hours). I've got tickets for the lawn section, and there's supposedly a 40% chance of thundershowers in the area, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to this show. Tom Petty is one of my all-time favorites, and I've never seen him live before. And best of all, much as I enjoyed his most recent album, Highway Companion, this isn't a tour in support of any particular release. It's basically a greatest hits tour. I mean, check out the set list from his most recent show:

CAN'T FIND MY WAY HOME (w/Steve Winwood)
GIMME SOME LOVIN' (w/Steve Winwood)

Oh, did I mention Steve Winwood is opening? Dude, Petty is performing "Can't Find My Way Home" and "Gimme Some Lovin'" with Steve Winwood. Awesome. I recently said I wasn't too big on Winwood's "Roll With It." Doesn't mean I'm not a fan of Winwood himself. Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith... yeah, this'll be good.

Full report tomorrow. Yay for me!

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

XXIX Olympics Wrap-up

With the Olympic closing ceremony taking place right now -- or having already taken place many hours ago, if you're going by reality, rather than NBC's TV schedule -- it seems as though these Games might be remembered as much for scandal and poor sportsmanship as much as Michael Phelps or the beautiful opening ceremony.

--Of course, the whole Olympics began under a cloud with the fatal stabbing of a former Olympic volleyballer's father. Way to put your best foot forward, China.

--Jamaican Usain Bolt caused a stir by showboating across the finish line in his record-breaking performance in the 100 meter dash. Closing in on the tape, Bolt looked around at the other sprinters, and actually slowed down to gesture at the crowd and thump his chest. Some would defend it as playful athletic enthusiasm, and I am certainly not against an athlete enjoying himself while becoming the fastest man alive. But you celebrate after the race. To slow down during the race: to me that's taunting, plain and simple, and that's being a poor sport.

--Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian discarded his bronze medal on the mat during the medal ceremony. He was then disqualified and stripped of his medal. He was protesting a disputed call in an earlier match, which lost him a chance at the gold, and more specifically he was protesting being denied a review of the call. Judges later ruled that his objections were correct, and he should have been allowed to challenge the ruling. But by that point, after having to be restrained from going after the officials in that match, and dropping the medal, he had so thoroughly violated the spirit of the Olympics that there was no question he deserved to be DQ'd.

--Another athlete succeeded in going after the officials: Cuban taekwando competitor Angel Matos and his coach were banned for life after Matos pushed a judge, then pushed and kicked a referee in the face. The ref had disqualified Matos for exceeding the injury time limit. His coach, Leudis Gonzalez, rather than offering any kind of apology afterward, instead charged that the match was fixed, and that the Kazakh team had tried to bribe him. All this accompanied controversial calls in at least two other matches. Taekwando is a borderline sport at the Olympics; after Beijing, I wouldn't expect to see the sport return in 2012.

--Gymnastics were rife with controversy, with questions about both the judging and certain athletes' ages. The rules and point values seem to have been followed accurately, but that still didn't stop a huge uproar being raised when American Alicia Sacramone finished fourth in the vault behind Chinese competitor Cheng Fei, who landed on her knees rather than her feet. Similar rule-following generated similar protests when Chinese He Kexin and American Nastia Liukin received tie scores on the uneven parallel bars, but only He won the gold after an obscure tie-breaking rule was invoked. And China denied that at least three members of their team were too young to compete, in spite of overwhelming evidence that He Kexin is only 14, two years under the age limit of 16.

--And of course there were the usual doping violations, including North Korean shooter Kim Jong Su, Spanish cyclist Maria Isabel Moreno, Ukrainian heptathlete Lyudmila Blonska and Vietnamese gymnast Thi Ngan Thuong Do.

--I've read and heard a lot of complaints, almost entirely from Americans, about the judged competitions being unfairly biased in favor of the Chinese. No real evidence that I've seen has been offered to justify these claims, other than the bitterness Americans feel when other countries best us in the Olympics. It's not enough that America has more medals than any other country; we need to have more gold medals than any other country to be satisfied. And if I'm not mistaken, the final count will be China with 51 golds, the U.S. with merely 36, 13 ahead of next-closest Russia. Bizarre, misguided claims that America would win the "real" gold medal count (or at least have been much closer) if sports requiring judging were discounted seem to be popping up everywhere, which I think demean both China and America, as well as the Olympics as a whole. There's enough weirdness out of these Beijing games without Americans spoiling things more by being poor winners.

And still, these was plenty to cheer and be touched by in these Olympics, from countries like Mongolia and India winning their first ever gold (or individual gold, respectively) medals, to U.S. gymnast Shawn Johnson being gracious and respectful about winning silver while American journalists and fans carped about the judging and expressed disappointment in Johnson for failing to achieve gold (even though she eventually did get a gold), to German weightlifter Matthias Steiner holding up a picture of his wife, killed in a car accident last year, during the medal ceremony, to, yes, Michael goddam Phelps.

I didn't get to see nearly as much of the Games this year as I would have liked, but even with my limited viewing, and NBC's best efforts to make that limited viewing experience awkward, confusing, untimely and unsatisfying, I enjoyed it, as I always do. See you in Vancouver in 2010!

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

When You're In Need Of Moral Guidance...

Just ask yourself:

Role model.

Apparently I have different ideas regarding appropriate problem-solving behavior than Chris and Kevin do.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

#1 With A Bullet Birthday Cake

Okay, here's one more meme thing I can do for every year I've been alive. This site can tell you what Billboard's #1 song was on the day you were born. So, counting backward, here are the #1 songs on my birthday, August 8, every year since my birth, with a few notes on how much I enjoy (or don't) each song.

2008 ... "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry
Kind of a dopey song, packed with insultingly tawdry and shallow sexuality and the cop-out "hope my boyfriend don't mind it" line which plays like a reassurance to any homophobic men who might be listening: "Don't worry, I'm still actually into guys like you -- but isn't two girls kissing hot?" That said... the video is pretty hot. Hey, I never said I wasn't insultingly tawdry and shallow!

2007 ... "Beautiful Girls" by Sean Kingston
Don't think I've ever heard it. I just looked at the video on You Tube... still doesn't ring a bell. Didn't really like the song.

2006 ... "Promiscuous" by Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland
I'm pretty sure the video for this is the one that partly takes place on a helipad which made me change the channel whenever I saw it -- not because of the helipad, just because I didn't like the song. (Checking You Tube, I appear to have been thinking of the video for "Say It Right." Well, I don't like either song. So there!)

2005 ... "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey
I've probably accidentally heard this song at some point, just via pop culture osmosis, but I assure you, I have never listened to it intentionally.

2004 ... "Slow Motion" by Juvenile featuring Soulja Slim
Never heard of it.

2003 ... "Crazy in Love" by Beyonce featuring Jay-Z
Don't care for it.

2002 ... "Hot in Herre" by Nelly
Dumb fun if I happen to catch it playing, but nothing I would actively seek out.

2001 ... "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child
Hey, I don't think that's a real word! Don't care for the tune.

2000 ... "Incomplete" by Sisqo
Sisqo had a second hit? Who allowed this to happen?

1999 ... "Genie in a Bottle" by Christina Aguilera
Hey, remember the '90s? Christina was always to me the least objectionable of the blonde pop starlets who began proliferating at about this time (such as Britney and Jessica Simpson), but still, I wouldn't choose to listen to this or any of her songs.

1998 ... "The Boy Is Mine" by Brandy & Monica
No thank you.

1997 ... "I'll Be Missing You" by Puff Daddy & Faith Evans featuring 112
God no! Puff Daddy is pathetic. Funny that he's ripping off a song that was also #1 on my birthday, back in 1983.

1996 ... "Macarena [Bayside Boys Mix]" by Los Del Rio
It is only acceptable to listen to -- and dance to -- this song at a wedding. A wedding with an open bar. I decree it!

1995 ... "Waterfalls" by TLC
"Don't go chasing waterfalls...." Are waterfalls really that elusive? They seem fairly stationary to me. Also, I don't like this song.

1994 ... "Stay (I Missed You)" by Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories
The first song on this list I actually enjoy wholeheartedly! Wow, we have to go all the way back to my 24th birthday for it. Got overplayed -- a lot -- to the point where I got sick of it, but it's been long enough now that I can listen to it again.

1993 ... "Can't Help Falling in Love" by UB40
Never liked UB40.

1992 ... "This Used to Be My Playground" by Madonna
I've liked a few songs from Madonna, here and there. This is not one of them.

1991 ... "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" by Bryan Adams
I'm embarrassed to admit that I loved this song and owned the album. Hell, I'd probably still enjoy it if I listened to it again.

1990 ... "Vision of Love" by Mariah Carey

1989 ... "Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx
Just looked him up on Wikipedia -- dang, I didn't realize this guy was quite so popular back in the day! Probably because I switched channels whenever I heard his voice.

1988 ... "Roll with It" by Steve Winwood
I honestly could not remember this song until I watched the video on You Tube. It's okay.

1987 ... "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2
Brilliant song! Probably my favorite of theirs.

1986 ... "Glory of Love" by Peter Cetera
In addition to Bryan Adams, I once also liked Peter Cetera. Oh, the shame! Wasn't this from the Karate Kid 2 soundtrack? I really liked this song back then. Wow, sad.

1985 ... "Shout" by Tears for Fears
Great song.

1984 ... "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker, Jr.
Oh, man, you could not escape this song in the summer of '84. Good thing I really like it. Or I did, at the time. I've heard it so often it's almost painful to listen to now -- especially when a commercial appropriates the music for some random product. Stop it!!!

1983 ... "Every Breath You Take" by The Police
Love this song.

1982 ... "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor
When I was 12, I was ridiculously into this song, and everything Rocky-related. I still get a kick out of it.

1981 ... "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield
Awesome '80s cheese! Come on, who doesn't love this song?

1980 ... "Magic" by Olivia Newton-John
I barely recall this song, but I think I liked it as a kid.

1979 ... "Bad Girls" by Donna Summer
The Queen of Disco! I remember hating disco at the time, because I learned from older kids that it was cool to hate disco. But this is actually a pretty good tune!

1978 ... "Three Times a Lady" by The Commodores
We used to taunt one of the kids on the school bus by putting his name in this song: "'Cause you're once, twice, three times Delaney!" Children are vicious. Good song, though.

1977 ... "I Just Want to Be Your Everything" by Andy Gibb
I don't think I know this song, but I'm sure I must've heard it on the radio back when I was 7. I am not now, nor was I ever, a fan of Andy Gibb.

1976 ... "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by Elton John & Kiki Dee
Fun song! I still like it.

1975 ... "Jive Talkin'" by The Bee Gees
Now we're at the age where I don't recall what music I might or might not have heard on the radio or on TV. It's the Bee Gees, so I'm sure I've heard it, but right now I can't imagine what it sounds like at all. (Okay, just checked it out on You Tube -- still don't recognize it. Don't much care for it.)

1974 ... "Feel Like Makin' Love" by Roberta Flack
Don't think I know this song, either. (Again, You Tube didn't help. Kind of pretty, though.)

1973 ... "The Morning After" by Maureen McGovern
This song won an Oscar for The Poseidon Adventure, and I've seen The Poseidon Adventure, but I still don't have the slightest idea how it goes. (Okay, I listened to it on You Tube... ugh.) All I knew of Maureen McGovern (before looking her up on Wikipedia just now) was that she recorded the single for "Can You Read My Mind" from Superman: The Movie, which I liked.

1972 ... "Alone Again (Naturally)" by Gilbert O'Sullivan
The title sounds familiar, but again, I can't call this song to mind. You Tubed it and... hey, I know this song! It's all right, mildly enjoyable fluff.

1971 ... "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" by The Bee Gees
Nope, don't know this song either, and listening to it on You Tube made me dislike it. Pretty much any song by the Bee Gees that's not "Stayin' Alive," I'm not going to like.

1970 ... "(They Long to Be) Close to You" by The Carpenters
Super cheesy, but you know what? I love it! I always liked the Carpenters.

And there you have it, another easy-to-produce but still substantial-appearing post. Blogging is a snap!

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder

I caught Pineapple Express at the Alamo Drafthouse last week, and it was easily, easily the funniest movie I've seen this year, or even expected to see. And then I saw Tropic Thunder last night, and it was even funnier.

Both share a similar sensibility in that they're huge action movies (which get surprisingly, graphically violent at times) as well as wacky comedies. (They even share a couple of actors, Bill Hader and Danny R. McBride.) But Pineapple's humor is more character driven, while Tropic relies on absurdly over-the-top satire. I'd rather spend more time with Seth Rogen and James Franco's stoners than Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr.'s spoiled actors, on the basis of likability alone, but the latter definitely made me laugh more.

Pineapple is very likely the world's first stoner action movie, in which Rogen and Franco play potheads on the run from vicious drug lords and crooked cops. The comedy primarily stems from watching these unmotivated slackers get high off their asses and attempt to participate in the usual action movie shenanigans, such as car chases, fist fights, and gun battles. And all of that is funny because of the wonderful character interactions between Rogen and Franco, as in the middle of all this danger they grow from merely a user and his dealer to best friends. It's hysterical to see Franco accidentally get his foot caught in the windshield in the middle of a car chase, but it's equally as hysterical to watch Franco tell Rogen, as they laze around his apartment, that the weed he is selling is so beautiful, smoking it is like killing a unicorn. It's a treat to watch these misfits awkwardly bond while their lives are very much in jeopardy.

The comedy is top-notch, with great support work from the always awesome Gary Cole as a drug kingpin, Rosie Perez as a cop on his payroll, Ed Begley, Jr. as an overprotective father, and Kevin Corrigan and Craig Robinson as bumbling assassins. And the action, for the most part, also satisfies. There are moments that betray that this is a first action effort from both the writers and the director, but they are few and easily overlooked.

Both the action and the comedy are top-notch in Tropic Thunder, which I have to admit surprised me. I didn't think Ben Stiller (co-writer, director, star) had it in him. It's been a long time since Stiller has been so entertaining as a performer, so long I had pretty much given up on him as forever reprising his role as the stumbly romantic comedy lead to which horribly embarrassing things routinely occur (even though, looking at IMDb, he really doesn't play that kind of role nearly as often as it seemed to me; it's just that, when he does, I really, really hate him). And as a director, nothing he's done before led me to believe he could helm the kind of film I saw last night, packed with gigantic set pieces which are as hilarious as they are exciting. Very impressive.

Tropic is about a film crew attempting to make the biggest Vietnam war film ever which unluckily crosses paths with real, gun-toting drug lords in the jungle (again with the drug lords!). Most of the comedy comes from the characters thrust into this situation, who are a little too broadly satirical to come across as realistic, identifiable people, such as those found in Pineapple, but who are nevertheless gut-bustingly funny. Stiller and Jack Black are both great as the action star and the gross-out comedian, respectively, searching for validation in this war epic, but it's Downey who completely dominates this film. His turn as a white man playing a black man could've come across as offensive, but the film and Downey make it so clear that it's all about poking fun at method actors rather than a cheap racial gag that I don't see how anyone could be genuinely offended. Downey is deeply, endlessly funny here, as committed to the role as his character is committed to his role. He steals the movie.

And he's not the only thief. There's one brilliant piece of casting that I feel I should preface with a SPOILER ALERT, even though it seems like the secret is fairly widespread by now. Ready? Here we go: Tom Cruise. He is absolutely tremendous as the foul-mouthed, belligerent, screamingly insane studio head who somehow winds up in charge of negotiating with the film crew's captors. He goes to such hilarious extremes, and had me in such stitches, that I have to say, I'm going to give Cruise a pass on his Scientology nuttiness for his next two films. Free pass, you crazy bastard!

The film as a whole is a fantastic satire on practically every aspect of moviemaking -- agents, writers, actors, directors, nobody is spared. And it's packed with homages to/mockery of a vast array of films, from Platoon to Close Encounters of the Third Kind to The Party to Apocalypse Now to Forrest Gump... and on and on. Even the soundtrack is pointed, packed with every cliched rock song overused as a cue for Vietnam films (Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," CCR's "Run Through the Jungle").

Both these films are fantastically clever, funny, thrilling entertainment. What a great double feature these two movies will make on DVD some day.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Holy craparoni. Chris Sims linked to me in his big Previews post yesterday night/early this morning, and I literally have gotten five million more hits than I usually do. Literally five million.


Okay, not literally. You know how much I hate to misuse that word. But it was a lot. Thanks, Chris!

And it's only led to one ignorant homophobe leaving a comment on that post so far. (The same one who trolled in Chris's comments.) But... fingers crossed!

Edited to add:

Here is an illustration of what scholars now refer to as the Sims Bump.

Aka 'The ISB Factor.'

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Note to Dorian:

I can never tell if I'm way behind the curve on this type of thing these days or not, but I understand R. Lee Ermey is going to be the voice of Wildcat on the new Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon.

Maybe you already knew about this, though I don't think I've noticed it on your blog. If you didn't know about it, well, for some strange reason I suspected you might be interested in a butch older gentleman who has no problem playing gay voicing Ted Grant's alter ego. Just a crazy hunch.

Note on the rest of the show:

Looks like this could be a lot of fun. Diedrich Bader as Batman is an interesting choice, but I like Bader and he's done a ton of cartoon voices before, so I expect it will work out well. I don't care for the CW's current (I assume -- it's still going, right?) The Batman animated series, which somehow manages simultaneously to be darker and yet tamer than the classic Bruce Timm animated version. This Brave and Bold take appears to be consciously choosing to go with a retro look and a lighter tone with more humor than anything we've seen from a Batman cartoon for a long time -- though the creators (in the interview linked above) still emphasize their freedom to mix the humor with the edge we've come to expect from the Dark Knight.

Plus, check out some of the guest characters: the Huntress, Wil Wheaton as the Blue Beetle, John Di Maggio as Aquaman, Tom Kenny as Plastic Man, and the resident Green Lantern of this series: Guy Gardner. Very nice! Looks like this is set to debut November 14 on the Cartoon Network. Be sure to check it out!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Joe R. Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale, Leather Maiden

Joe R. Lansdale is one of my favorite writers working today. Two of my very earliest posts on this blog were about his books. On Sunday afternoon, I attended a book signing for Lansdale's newest book, Leather Maiden. And I'm happy to say, he could not have been a nicer, cooler person.

He took some questions from the audience, which was about 25-30 people. He let us know that the next Hap and Leonard book, Vanilla Ride, will be out next year, with two others ready to go in fairly rapid succession after that, which is fantastic news for Lansdale fans. He told us about the various film adaptations of his work which never quite made it to the screen, such as a Hap and Leonard film which would have starred Josh Lucas and Don Cheadle which fell apart at the last moment. He told us Bill Paxton was looking to direct the film version of one of his books (I forget which, but it was either The Bottoms or Cold in July, I think). And he told some crazy, hilarious stories, illustrating that some of the weirder things he writes about have a basis in real life.

He then read from the first three chapters in the new book, which I can't wait to get started on -- equally funny and intriguing, as usual. And finally he invited people to get their books signed.

I brought two of his novels from home for him to sign, plus the new book which I bought that day, as well as about twenty of his comics (primarily his work with Timothy Truman -- all the Jonah Hex stuff, and The Lone Ranger and Tonto mini-series). I didn't expect he'd have time to get to all the comics; in fact, I was just hoping he'd have time to sign three or four key issues. But he grabbed the whole bundle and signed everything. He loved signing stuff, he said -- that's what he was there for! (And yes, I waited until everyone else had gone first, so I didn't tie up the line. I'm considerate!)

During the Q&A, I had mentioned how hard it was to find some of his earlier books. For example, I've been searching for ages, but his first Hap and Leonard book, Savage Season, is just impossible to find, new, used, or even at a library. He said that Vintage would be reissuing the first six books starting next year -- again, great news for Lansdale fans. But then he also said if I wanted to stick around after the signing, when his wife came to pick him up, he had a whole trunk full of his old books for sale. (And no, he doesn't just drive around with a trunk full of books all the time -- at least, I don't think he does; he was stocked up because he had been at ArmadilloCon earlier that day.)

Sadly, it turned out I didn't have any cash on me at the moment. And here's how cool this guy is: he said, "Tell you what, I'll give you my address, and you can just mail the payment to me later." Who does that? Who would trust a random fan like that? That blew my mind. How incredibly generous. Too bad he's never getting his money!! (Actually, I ran across the street to an ATM. As much as I appreciated his offer, I felt it would be impolite to make him wait on a check from me like that. I'm considerate, damn it!)

So, with the help of his very sweet wife, and his lovely daughter (country singer Kasey Lansdale), we dug through the boxes in his car and found hardback copies of the first three Hap and Leonard novels, two of which, Savage Season and Mucho Mojo, I've never been able to read before. I also picked up a copy of the aforementioned Cold in July, another of his best I could never track down. And I got to pick up all four for well under the cover price. I call that a bargain. I also call it a belated birthday present to myself. I'm worth it.

Great writer, great guy, great day. If you haven't read anything by Lansdale yet (or, at the very least, watched Bubba Ho-Tep, which is based on one of his stories), you're missing out.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Sidebar Update!

Hey, it's time for the beloved (and originally weekly, then monthly, now whenever I get around to it) Sidebar Update! It's only been four months or so since the last Update, so I'm right on schedule.

As always, we lead off with the current Object of My Affection: Maggie Gyllenhaal. Certainly I admired her in The Dark Night, but I've been infatuated with her for a good long while, most especially since her funny, lovely, sexy performance in Stranger Than Fiction. Here's a bonus picture for you to enjoy:

I don't know what she's selling, but I'll take two.

Reading Fred Hembeck's massive Omnibus, as I recently mentioned. This should keep me occupied for quite some time, which is just fine by me.

Watching the first season DVD set of Adult Swim's hilarious Squidbillies. The animation is crude, and the humor is even cruder, often resulting in hideous violence and mutilation, but that's just part of the show's charm. Kind of like Metalocalypse, with country music instead of heavy metal. And more squid creatures.

Listening to Weezer's new album, Weezer (or, as it's come to be known, the Red Album). This is Weezer's third self-titled release. Geez, what are they, in a competition with Peter Gabriel to produce the most eponymous albums? Anyway, this was part of my birthday gift from my sister, and it's quite excellent.

Hating: I give up. There's no one and nothing more deserving of my contempt than the monkey running this country into the ground. So I'm not going to bother trying to find a different target of hatred to put in the sidebar until Dubya is forcibly ejected from the White House next January. For the next five months, President Duh gets the dishonor of remaining under the "Hating" heading full-time. And as a feel-good extra, I've included a countdown timer ticking away his last days in office.

And finally, the Lyric of the Moment is from Weezer's "Pork and Beans," off that new album. Turns out, behind the goofy title, it's a song about rejecting advertising and peer pressure and being fine with yourself the way you are. What a surprisingly sensible message for a pop song!

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"I hammer war"

Hey, I know that guy! In issue #1 of the comic Fall of Cthulu: Godwar from Boom! Studios, fresh on the stands this week, there is a brief interview with pal Ian about his new position as an editor for the company -- complete with photo! Very cool, Ian. Congrats once again! Guess they haven't discovered you can't read yet. (Oops!)

Don't click this.

Here's a scan of the full page. I'm sure Ian was very pleased to have been included on the same page as a tribute to the late comics retailer Rory Root, whom Ian (and I) regarded with great esteem.

Click here!

Here's Ian's bit on its own. Click to biggie size so you can read the interview, and admire what a dashing young devil Mr. Brill is.

Click away!

And click here if you'd like to read the tribute to Rory at full size.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

MOVIES: Waitress

In my continuing effort to catch up with the many great films I missed in 2007, I watched Waitress last night. I actually bought the DVD prior to seeing it; I got a $15 Blockbuster gift card for my birthday, and I used it toward a 4-for-$20 used DVD special. The other three DVDs: Sicko, Gone Baby Gone, and Eastern Promises, also all from 2007. See, it's a continuing effort!

Waitress stars Keri Russell as a small-town waitress stuck in a loveless marriage whose only creative escape is through the magnificent pies she bakes (with names such as "I Hate My Husband Pie"). Her actual, physical escape plans are foiled when she discovers she's pregnant, and a deep resentment for the baby grows within her. While figuring how she's going to deal with her rotten husband and unwanted baby, she falls into an affair with her married OB-GYN, played with good-humored charm by Nathan Fillion.

The beauty of the film lies in its characters, and their specificity. We've seen any number of bad husbands in the movies, but none quite like Jeremy Sisto, who is a callous bully, but who also displays unexpected vulnerability, as when he dissolves into frightened tears when he discovers his wife has been hiding money from him. And we've seen any number of wronged wives, but watching Russell wend her way from motivated to flee, to loathing for her unborn child, to resigned despair, to beaming elation as her affair with Fillion blooms, to shame and fear that she'll be caught (as she invents her "I Can't Have No Affair Because It's Wrong And I Don't Want Earl To Kill Me Pie"), to final steely determination and direction -- it all feels fresh and new, especially as seen through Russell's bright, sharp eyes.

The supporting characters often border on too quirky for their own good, as with Andy Griffith's crusty old curmudgeon with a randy mind and a heart of gold, or Eddie Jemison as Ogie, the creepily persistent suitor who recites impromptu poetry. But others are pure gems, as with Fillion's kind, romantic doctor, or Adrienne Shelly as the mousy waitress who hasn't given up on happiness.

The movie is mainly concerned with that search for happiness, but there's a deep current of sadness running through it as well. It's a funny film, but Russell's pain is very real. Much of the sadness is also informed by the fate of Shelly, who wrote and directed the film, her first feature. She was murdered in her New York apartment before the film was released to overwhelmingly positive reviews (89% positive, according to Rotten Tomatoes). It's a true tragedy, and one that lays a shadow over the film, but in no way does that make it a film to avoid. This is a sweet, touching, original work with enormous, widespread appeal.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Baghdad by the Bay

Jeff of Stuff Running 'Round My Head is currently posting a series of photos from his recent trip to the San Francisco Bay Area.

As I have often mentioned and demonstrated on this blog, such as in this series of posts (the last three of which were written in the style of a Zagat's Guide review of my last visit there, for reasons that seem less hilarious to me in retrospect), San Francisco is my favorite city in the world. I wish on that last trip I had had an adequate camera to capture the beauty and oddness of The City and its surroundings, but since I didn't, you'll have to check out Jeff's photos instead. And maybe you'll get an inkling of what makes S.F. so wonderful.

For example, here's a shot of the outside of Vesuvio, a weird and cool little bar in North Beach (the exterior of which was also featured as the beatnik-poetry club in So I Married an Axe Murderer, though the interior was a set). Here are a couple of posts on Chinatown. (Forget it, Jake... oh, wrong Chinatown.) Here's the Stockton Tunnel, at the top of which is the Tunnel Top bar, which I "reviewed" in this post, and which was great. Here's Union Square, the setting of the crucial conversation in Coppola's The Conversation. This is a beautiful shot of the Transamerica Pyramid, and these are a couple of other very nice middle-of-the-street pictures. And this one includes a shot of Top Dog in Berkeley, at which I purchased countless bratwursts and Polishes and so forth late, late at night during my college days, since this was the only place to get food after the bars closed. Yum!

Man, I'm missing that city again. Nice photos, Jeff! Keep 'em coming!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympics 2008

I haven't been watching nearly as much of the Olympics this year as I usually like to. For example, I missed USA's come-from-behind gold medal win in the 4 x 100 swimming relay, which apparently was the greatest thing ever. Dang it.

Here's just a few stray thoughts on the few events I've witnessed:

--Shooting competitions are taking place every day of this week, nine days of events all told, but the TV coverage was limited entirely to this past weekend. I managed to catch some coverage Sunday, but some friends of mine here did not. And Texans love their shooting. This seems like poor scheduling to me; I have to imagine the entire middle section of the U.S. would love to see more of this stuff.

--Very nifty story regarding the shooting today: India took their first ever individual gold in the 10m air rifle competition. Sweet! And then various Indian agencies rewarded the winner, Abhinav Bindra, with nearly $400,000. Super sweet! If you want to be an Olympic ringer for hire, my suggestion is apply to India.

--NBC and Michael Phelps himself are trying really, really hard to convince me that Phelps, the soon-to-be gold medal-winningest Olympian ever, is not a complete tool, but I'm not buying it. That dude bugs me.

--Why does men's beach volleyball even exist? If there is no possibility of seeing Misty May's ass, what is the point? (Trying to keep my Google hits up there. I've fallen all the way to 7th place in overall searches for that phrase. Which is a disgrace: I used to be #1.)

--Favorite minor event I've caught so far: badminton. Those guys are frickin' savage! I would not want to be in the way of that shuttlecock. (Hee hee! I said "shuttle.")

--I've watched synchronized diving two nights in a row. The general consensus around Austin (and perhaps around the world) seems to be that this event is a total waste of time, but I love it. It is entirely random, I don't deny, but there's something about the athletic discipline combined with the fantastic photography -- that camera that drops straight down with the divers, all the way underwater, is brilliant -- that fascinates me.

--I'm watching the women's synchronized diving competition right now, and I'm sorry, but one of the Chinese competitors totally has a penis. Seriously. I call foul.

--Haven't seen any basketball or tennis yet. I barely care about the NBA, and seeing the "Redeem Team" romp all over their competition in the Olympics doesn't hold any additional interest for me. But if Federer plays Nadal in the men's tennis finals, in a rematch of the Wimbledon finals, I'll skip work if I have to to watch it. (Or I could TiVo it, but it sounds more dramatic that way.) Those guys are awesome.

More coverage later. Go Team USA!

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Orson Scott Card is a fucking lunatic

Dangerously insane sci-fi writer advocates overthrow of government as reasonable response to gay marriage.

Because when government is the enemy of marriage, then the people who are actually creating successful marriages have no choice but to change governments, by whatever means is made possible or necessary.... How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.
This kind of hate for gays is nothing new from Card, but this is certainly a new extreme for him.

Damn shame. I really used to love Ender's Game.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

To the internet!

Okay, the city we used to call Peking we now call Beijing.

So what should we now call Peking Duck?

P.S. I could look this up on the internet, but I don't want to.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

XXIX Olympics

I was otherwise occupied yesterday, what with the birthday celebrations and all, but I want to acknowledge the opening of the Beijing Olympics. I'm watching the Opening Ceremonies on TiVo right now.

I'm very excited, as I always am for the Olympics. There may be a lot of controversy over the choice of China to host these games, but for one thing, I think the Olympics are a moment to set aside political barriers and treasure the spectacle of international athletic achievement and camaraderie. And for another thing, as I listened to Tom Brokaw detail China's political failures -- "It is a country where the few rule the many; where protest is not welcome..." -- it becomes very obvious how difficult it is for America to claim any kind of moral superiority to any other nation at this point, even China. Wow, protest is not welcome? What's that like? I wonder if they tap their citizens' phones without permission, or detain people for years on end with no charges and no hope for a public trial? Wouldn't that be awful?

Anyhoo, my point is I love the Olympics, and will be watching a boatload of coverage over the next couple weeks. And in honor of the commencement of these Olympics, I'm bringing back an old favorite of this blog. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Misty May's ass.

It is patriotic to admire this ass.

You're welcome.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Happy Crazy Eights Day!

Hey everybody. Happy Crazy Eights Day! Today, 8/8/08, I turn 38 years old! Yikes. I plan on buying 8 lottery tickets, and then probably drinking 38 beers.

Weather for my barbecue later today should be a little rough -- hot and muggy, probably around the 100-degree mark. In fact, we have now had something like 88 consecutive days of 90-plus degree temperatures. Knock it off, Austin! Try something new.

No other content today, I plan on celebrating! With perhaps some napping in there as well. Naps are awesome. But feel free to comment on one of my recent posts if you haven't yet. Better late than never!


Thursday, August 07, 2008

An Album For Every Year

Yep, I'm really going to do it! Following up on my two lists of my favorite movies for each year I've been alive, here is my stab at the same kind of list, but for albums instead.

I'm keeping this list much briefer: just my #1 pick and one runner-up, and that's it. Arbitrary rules: no reissues, no greatest hits compilations. Original albums in the original years they were released only.

Source: mostly here. It's not perfect. There are a couple of omissions I noticed here and there. Such as: no mention of Hoyt Axton. What do you got against Hoyt Axton, the Internet??? Anyhoo, hopefully I can cobble together a genuinely representative list of my musical tastes from this and a couple other resources, along with the meager assistance of my memory.

1970: Neil Young, After the Gold Rush
Runner-up: The Beatles, Let It Be

1971: The Who, Who's Next
Runner-up: The Doors, L.A. Woman

1972: Neil Young, Harvest
Runner-up: George Carlin, Class Clown

1973: Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Runner-up: The Who, Quadrophenia

1974: Hoyt Axton, Life Machine
Runner-up: Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark

1975: Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here
Runner-up: Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run

1976: Hoyt Axton, Fearless
Runner-up: Billy Joel, Turnstiles

1977: Pink Floyd, Animals
Runner-up: Fleetwood Mac, Rumours

1978: The Who, Who Are You
Runner-up: Van Halen, Van Halen

1979: AC/DC, Highway To Hell
Runner-up: The Clash, London Calling

1980: AC/DC, Back in Black
Runner-up: Pete Townshend, Empty Glass

1981: Billy Joel, Songs in the Attic
Runner-up: Rush, Moving Pictures

1982: Pete Townshend, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes
Runner-up: Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska

1983: Huey Lewis & the News, Sports
Runner-up: Def Leppard, Pyromania
Man, we are really into the '80s now!

1984: Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A.
Runner-up: Van Halen, 1984

1985: John Cougar Mellencamp, Scarecrow
Runner-up: The Pogues, Rum, Sodomy & the Lash

1986: They Might Be Giants, They Might Be Giants
Runner-up: Peter Gabriel, So

1987: Guns N' Roses, Appetite For Destruction
Runner-up: John Cougar Mellencamp, The Lonesome Jubilee

1988: Metallica, ...And Justice For All
Runner-up: They Might Be Giants, Lincoln

1989: Tom Petty, Full Moon Fever
Runner-up: Don Henley, The End of the Innocence

1990: They Might Be Giants, Flood
Runner-up: Sinead O'Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got

1991: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Runner-up: Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend

1992: Barenaked Ladies, Gordon
Runner-up: Lemonheads, It's a Shame About Ray

1993: Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville
Runner-up: Sheryl Crow, Tuesday Night Music Club

1994: Green Day, Dookie
Runner-up: Bad Religion, Stranger Than Fiction

1995: Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Runner-up: Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill

1996: The Refreshments, Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy
Runner-up: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, She's the One

1997: Foo Fighters, The Colour and the Shape
Runner-up: Green Day, Nimrod

1998: The Offspring, Americana
Runner-up: Barenaked Ladies, Stunt

1999: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication
Runner-up: The Pretenders, ¡Viva El Amor!

2000: Barenaked Ladies, Maroon
Runner-up: O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack
I think I may actually not own a single other album released in 2000.

2001: Dropkick Murphys, Sing Loud, Sing Proud!
Runner-up: Tenacious D, Tenacious D

2002: Foo Fighters, One By One
Runner-up: Bad Religion, The Process of Belief

2003: Fountains of Wayne, Welcome Interstate Managers
Runner-up: Therapy?, High Anxiety

2004: Green Day, American Idiot
Runner-up: The Donnas, Gold Medal

2005: Foo Fighters, In Your Honor
Runner-up: Kathleen Edwards, Back To Me

2006: Tom Petty, Highway Companion
Runner-up: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Love Their Country

2007: Foo Fighters, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
Runner-up: Fountains of Wayne, Traffic and Weather

2008: Kathleen Edwards, Asking For Flowers
Runner-up: Foxboro Hot Tubs, Stop Drop and Roll!!!

I'm probably overlooking a few of my faves by mistake. But that looks pretty good as is. I'd listen to that jukebox!

Some years were very difficult to narrow down -- I hated to have to leave out Sugar's brilliant Copper Blue and Tori Amos's Little Earthquakes for 1992, or Therapy?'s Troublegum and They Might Be Giants' John Henry for 1994. Some years, I had trouble finding a runner-up at all. Mostly 2000 and on. My music-buying dropped way off around that point.

And there are obviously a lot of names which kept popping up. A lot. What can I say? I find what I like and I stick with it. Nothing wrong with that, dang it, so lay off. If you think you're so darn smart, why don't you go and make your own list?? Smart guy.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

It's Hembecktastic!

I told you back in October how excited I was that this book would soon be coming out:

Book is actually bigger than Fred Hembeck himself

It did come out, a couple months ago,and I finally was able to get myself a copy yesterday.

I am happy.

If the value of books could be broken down into cost per word, this would probably be the greatest bargain in the history of publishing. I expect to be reading this tome well into 2009. Man, that Hembeck guy likes to pack his word balloons! And if it could be broken down into laughs, or sheer glee, well, it would be a darn good bargain by those standards, too.

This book is a wonderful thing. It's pure fun, plain and simple. It makes me glad to read comics. You should go get it, but then again, if you're a comics fan, you surely already have it. Great stuff, Fred!

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Film For Every Year (Part 2)

Part 1.

Better late than never! Here's Part 2.

Favorite: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Runners-up: Beetlejuice, Bull Durham, Dangerous Liaisons, Dead Ringers, A Fish Called Wanda, The Last Temptation of Christ, Midnight Run, The Naked Gun, Scrooged, Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Great films I have yet to see: The Accidental Tourist, Gorillas in the Mist, Hairspray
Worst film I have seen: Caddyshack II

The later we get in this list, the higher the percentage of really awful movies there is for each year. Partly this has to do with production increasing throughout the years; Wikipedia lists 67 releases for 1970, and 157 for 1988. More movies means less quality control: more opportunities for schlock to make it to the screen than in times when studios perhaps were more discriminating about their output. 1988 had a ton of great movies, but it had even more incredibly awful ones. Rather than Caddyshack II as worst film, I could very easily have gone with Action Jackson, Arthur 2: On the Rocks, Big Business, Buster, Cocktail, Cocoon: The Return, The Couch Trip, Crocodile Dundee II, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Ernest Saves Christmas, Halloween 4, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, License To Drive, My Stepmother Is an Alien, Punchline, Rambo III, Red Heat, or Vibes. That's sad.

Favorite: Crimes and Misdemeanors
Runners-up: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Do the Right Thing, Field of Dreams, Heathers, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Little Mermaid, Mystery Train, Say Anything...,
Great films I have yet to see: Cinema Paradiso, Henry V
Worst film I have seen: The Abyss (the first movie I ever booed in the theater)

More than any of the films mentioned above, this was the year of Batman. I loved it at the time, but... eh. I don't think it's aged well at all.

Favorite: Goodfellas
Runners-up: Dances With Wolves, The Freshman, The Grifters, Miami Blues, Miller's Crossing, The Rescuers Down Under, Reversal of Fortune, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
Greats films I have yet to see: Alice, Avalon
Worst film I have seen: RoboCop 2 (it may not actually be worse than, say, Men at Work or Look Who's Talking Too, but it's the film that hurt me the most)

Lot of great films in there, many of small scale which aren't much remembered these few years later. Has anyone else seen Miami Blues? You really should. Or Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, which is, amazingly, still the only film in which Tim Roth and Gary Oldman have appeared together? (If only Roth hadn't turned down the Harry Potter franchise for Planet of the Apes....) But then, this is also the year Whoopi Goldberg won a fucking Oscar, so let's move on.

Favorite: Beauty and the Beast
Runners-up: Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, L.A. Story, The Silence of the Lambs, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Great films I have yet to see: Delicatessen... and that's about it
Worst film I have seen: Point Break (I can enjoy the camp value, but come on, it's quite awful)

Not a lot of films really jumped out at me this year as being truly great, though I enjoyed a lot of them. Beauty and the Beast takes the favorite spot almost by default (it is truly great, but for some reason I'm finding it hard to build up much enthusiasm for it right now). Missing from my list of runners-up are films from three of my favorite directors, David Cronenberg (Naked Lunch), Terry Gilliam (The Fisher King), and the Coen brothers (Barton Fink). I haven't rewatched any of those films since I saw them in the theater. They just don't register as the highlights of any of those filmmakers. Which possibly is because I've never rewatched them. I'm more than willing to believe the fault here is mine, not theirs. I've got a copy of Barton Fink, which I plan on watching in the coming week; maybe I'll get back to the other two someday soon as well.

Favorite: Unforgiven
Runners-up: The Crying Game, El Mariachi, Glengarry Glen Ross, One False Move, The Player, Reservoir Dogs, Wayne's World
Great films I have yet to see: Chaplin, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Husbands and Wives, Malcolm X
Worst film I have seen: Encino Man (but only because I never watched Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot)

This year, on the other hand, my pick was a no-brainer. My favorite film of the decade, and one of my favorite films ever. But look at all that up-and-coming talent (Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Neil Jordan, Billy Bob Thornton pre-Sling Blade) peppered among new high points from veterans (Eastwood, Altman, Reiner). Pretty damn good year.

Favorite: Groundhog Day
Runners-up: Army of Darkness, Carlito's Way, Dead Alive, Hard Boiled, Hard Target, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Remains of the Day, Short Cuts
Great films I have yet to see: Farewell My Concubine, Philadelphia, The Piano, Rudy, The Sandlot, Schindler's List
Worst film I have seen: The Dark Half (only because I never allowed myself to watch RoboCop 3)

Dead Alive and Hard Boiled were actually made in 1992, but didn't come to America until 1993, which is why I have them here. I include Rudy and The Sandlot among "greats" I haven't seen only because my friends are always appalled when I tell them I haven't seen them, not because I expect any greatness from them once I eventually, inevitably am forced to see them. And I was a little surprised by my pick for favorite, though I guess I shouldn't be. As I recently noted: "The more this movie ages, the clearer it becomes what an absolute classic it is." True!

Favorite: Pulp Fiction
Runners-up: Barcelona, Dumb and Dumber, Ed Wood, Heavenly Creatures, The Hudsucker Proxy (You know -- for kids!), The Last Seduction, The Lion King, Nobody's Fool, The Ref
Great films I have yet to see: Immortal Beloved, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
Worst film I have seen: It's Pat

Julia Sweeney appears in both my favorite and least favorite film of the year. And Quentin Tarantino is rumored to have done uncredited rewrites on the It's Pat script. Funny how best and worst can occur nearly simultaneously.

Favorite: Toy Story
Runners-up: Before Sunrise, Braveheart, Clueless, Dead Man, Dead Man Walking, Desperado, Devil in a Blue Dress, GoldenEye, A Goofy Movie, Leaving Las Vegas, Pocahontas, Se7en, Toy Story, 12 Monkeys, The Usual Suspects
Great films I have yet to see: The City of Lost Children, Clockers, Rob Roy, Sense and Sensibility, Welcome to the Dollhouse
Worst film I have seen: Fair Game

While, clearly, there are many films I like a great deal from this year, I had trouble picking a favorite, one that really stood head and shoulders above the others (in my mind, anyway). I think I finally went with Toy Story on the basis of quantity -- watched it the most times -- more than anything else. I could've picked nearly any other film I listed and been okay with it.

Favorite: Fargo
Runners-up: Bound, Hard Eight, Jerry Maguire, Kingpin, Mission: Impossible, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Scream, Star Trek: First Contact, That Thing You Do!, Tin Cup
Great films I have yet to see: Breaking the Waves, Michael Collins, Secrets & Lies, Shine
Worst film I have seen: Jack

I think Jack is when I really began to hate Robin Williams.

Favorite: Donnie Brasco
Runners-up: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Boogie Nights, Clockwatchers, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, Private Parts, Starship Troopers
Great films I have yet to see: Cop Land, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Mrs. Brown, Ulee's Gold
Worst film I have seen: As much as I hate Titanic, in all fairness Batman & Robin was far, far worse... which would essentially make the actual worst film of this year, Fathers' Day, a crime against humanity

Donnie Brasco was when I switched from thinking, "Johnny Depp is usually pretty entertaining" to, "Johnny Depp should have a shelf full of Oscars." How he was not nominated for this film is a mystery to me -- hell, by this film, he should already have had three nominations, and probably won at least once. It only took the Academy six more years (and a gigantic theme park ride-based blockbuster) to recognize Depp at all, even though he is so clearly, in my eyes, the best actor of his generation (and "his generation" can basically be defined as "from the date of his birth to now").

Favorite: The Big Lebowski
Runners-up: Babe: Pig in the City, A Bug's Life, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Happiness, Mulan, Out of Sight, Pi, Pleasantville, Rushmore, Saving Private Ryan, There's Something About Mary, The Truman Show, Zero Effect
Great films I have yet to see: Affliction, American History X, Beloved, Buffalo '66, Croupier, Elizabeth, Gods and Monsters
Worst film I have seen: You've Got Mail

Man, this was a really good year for movies. I had Saving Private Ryan in the favorite spot for a while, but then I had to admit that I have finally been wholly absorbed into the Lebowski cult. Damn, it's fun! So much fun, every single time. I mean, sure, the harrowing half hour-long orgy of violence on the beaches of Normandy that opens Ryan -- that's fun, too, don't get me wrong. But... the Dude abides. 'Nuff said.

Favorite: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
Runners-up: American Beauty, American Pie, Being John Malkovich, Boys Don't Cry, Election, eXistenZ, Galaxy Quest, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, The Iron Giant, Magnolia, Office Space, The Sixth Sense, The Straight Story, Three Kings, Toy Story 2,
Great films I have yet to see: All About My Mother, The End of the Affair, Girl, Interrupted, The Hurricane
Worst film I have seen: Three To Tango

Tons of great cult-level films released this year, including what may be my favorite films from David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch. But I have to go for the ultra-crass (but incredibly funny and smartly satirical) South Park instead. I could watch it every single day. That movie has warped my fragile little mind!

Favorite: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Runners-up: Almost Famous, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, High Fidelity, Memento, The Perfect Storm, Pitch Black, Pollock, Requiem for a Dream, The Tao of Steve, Traffic, Unbreakable, X-Men, You Can Count On Me
Great films I have yet to see: Billy Elliot, Dancer in the Dark, Yi Yi
Worst film I have seen: What Planet Are You From?

I would say, without hesitation, Requiem for a Dream was the best film released in 2000. But favorite? I don't know that I can call it my favorite when I literally can not bear to watch it again. One of the most brutal films I've ever seen. No, my favorite film, one I love and enjoy every time I see it, has to be O Brother. Is that copping out, or does that make sense to you?

Favorite: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Runners-up: Donnie Darko, Frailty, Ghost World, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, In the Bedroom, The Royal Tenenbaums, Wet Hot American Summer
Great films I have yet to see: Ali, Amelie, Monster's Ball, Winged Migration
Worst film I have seen: Joe Dirt (though there are many other films that look much worse, but I've never actually seen -- such as Freddy Got Fingered)

Nothing really jumped out at me as being an overwhelming favorite for this year, even though my pick seems like a fairly obvious choice in retrospect. I kept expecting some other title would take its place.

Favorite: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Runners-up: Adaptation, Bubba Ho-Tep, City of God, In America, Spider-Man
Great films I have yet to see: The Hours, The Pianist, Spider, Talk To Her
Worst film I have seen: My Big Fat Stupid Unfunny Vastly Overrated Greek Wedding

Exact same thing as 2001. I almost picked Spider-Man instead. I loved the Ring trilogy, don't get me wrong. I just wouldn't have expected it to fill my favorite film spot for two years running.

Favorite: Kill Bil Vol. 1
Runners-up: American Splendor, Bad Santa, The Cooler, Finding Nemo, Hulk, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Lost in Translation, Mystic River, Old School, School of Rock, The Station Agent, Whale Rider, X2: X-Men United
Great films I have yet to see: Coffee and Cigarettes, Monster, The Triplets of Belleville
Worst film I have seen: The Cat in the Hat

This was a very tough choice. I could've gone with half a dozen different films as my favorite. I actually had Finding Nemo up there first, then replaced it with American Splendor. But the first half of Tarantino's beautifully violent epic won out for me.

Favorite: Shaun of the Dead
Runners-up: Anchorman, Before Sunset, Dawn of the Dead, The Dreamers, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fahrenheit 9/11, The Incredibles, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Shrek 2, Spider-Man 2, Team America: World Police
Great films I have yet to see: Finding Neverland, Hotel Rwanda
Worst film I have seen: The Butterfly Effect, The Grudge (tie)

2004 was the year this blog debuted, and it was the first year I crafted a year-end top ten film list. Check it out if you want to see what I thought about 2004's films back then. As time has gone on, the list has changed a bit. Hero, which I then called my second favorite film of the year, doesn't even register anymore. Fahrenheit 9/11, which I had at #1, would probably be around #5 or #6 now. Shaun of the Dead has become one of my favorite films to rewatch of all time, and has accordingly been bumped up. The Butterfly Effect and The Grudge are still equally worthless pieces of garbage, though.

Favorite: The Devil's Rejects
Runners-up: The Aristocrats, Broken Flowers, Capote, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Munich, Oldboy, Serenity, Sin City, The Squid and the Whale, The Upside of Anger
Great films I have yet to see: Brokeback Mountain, The Constant Gardener, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, March of the Penguins, The New World, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Transamerica, Tsotsi
Worst film I have seen: Waiting...

Yes, still. I still say The Devil's Rejects is my favorite movie of 2005. What can I say, I'm a sucker for family entertainment.

Favorite: Casino Royale
Runners-up: Blood Diamond, Cars, Children of Men, The Departed, The Descent, Hostel, Pan's Labyrinth, A Prairie Home Companion, Stranger Than Fiction, Thank You For Smoking
Great films I have yet to see: Akeelah and the Bee, Dreamgirls, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, United 93
Worst film I have seen: Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj

When I wrote up my round-up of the movies of 2006, I had Stranger Than Fiction and The Departed tied as my favorites. But with recent, frequent rewatchings on Showtime, Casino Royale has surpassed them both in my mind as the superlative entertainment. Can't wait for The Quantum of Solace (even though I hate that title).

Favorite: No Country For Old Men
Runners-up: Breach, Grindhouse, Hot Fuzz, Juno, Knocked Up, Ratatouille, The Simpsons Movie, Superbad, There Will Be Blood, Walk Hard
Great films I have yet to see: American Gangster, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Atonement, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, The Darjeeling Limited, Eastern Promises, Gone Baby Gone, I'm Not There, Lars and the Real Girl, Michael Clayton, Sicko, Sweeney Todd, La Vie en Rose, Waitress
Worst film I have seen: Epic Movie

As you can see, I'm still trying to catch up on all the films I missed out on last year. Though No Country was still an easy choice. Come on, it's awesome.

Favorite: Iron Man
Runners-up: The Dark Knight, Hancock, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Step Brothers
Great films I have yet to see: Be Kind Rewind, In Bruges, WALL-E
Worst film I have seen: Strange Wilderness

It's still way too early to be calling this one -- I can guarantee you, my favorite will have changed by December. But for now, Iron Man remains the most enjoyable film released this year that I've seen. And the runners-up are basically every other movie I've seen.

Wow, what a long-winded response to a fairly simple meme. But then, this kind of overboard list-making is why you love me. (Please love me.) Coming soon: An Album For Every Year. Maybe. I promise if I do it, I'll make that one much shorter.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Hi, my name's Tom, I used to run a blog here.

Hey folks. I'm back home in Austin. Miss me?

I'll just say that it's been an incredibly rough past couple of weeks, and leave it at that. Blogging is still a low priority, but it's also a helpful distraction, so I'm going to attempt to resume soon, hopefully tomorrow. Maybe I'll talk about why I didn't like The Dark Knight nearly as much as everyone else seems to have. (#1: Christian Bale's goddam Bat-voice.)

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