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Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

It’s Official

Unemployment, that is.

Yup, the institution of “higher” learning that’s been paying my rent since 2003 majorly fucked up and had to let go *all* adjunct comp instructors for the spring. Not having a job is bittersweet, though. I’ve been in the vicious circle of wanting to find something else, finding I have no relevant experience for work outside the academy (and not enough education for any gainful work inside), agreeing to teach for fear of uncertainty, and doing little aside from not enjoying teaching. Maybe I’ll finally find something that I enjoy…

In other good news, the feeling I’d attributed to winter time, possible S.A.D., possible depression, teaching, fatigue, and general malaise turns out to likely be magnesium deficiency. Who knew?! The doc said a level as low as mine could cause heart palpitations and muscle weakness. After a couple of doses of magnesium oxide, I already feel better. In hindsight, I had easily describable symptoms–especially the increased heart-rate–but find it endlessly difficult to trust what my body tells me. I immediately blame myself for my symptoms (not enough sleep, not enough vigorous exercise, etc.). Good to know it isn’t always my fault.

Finally, on an entirely unrelated note, yesterday I watched/fell asleep during the worst movie: The Grifters. I found myself asking, time and again, “Is this supposed to be funny?” Well, is it?

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The five-part New York documentary by PBS. I have two episodes left. The series is good, but not great; it’s as if NY arose in a vaccum. It’s fascinating to see the visual history of the city,  though. And I have a powerful urge to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge now. Veace, when can I visit?

darjeeling.jpg

Yuck. I’m not a huge fan of Wes Anderson, but I genuinely liked The Life Aquatic. This represents a step backward for him–into Royal Tennenbaums-style vapidity. I hope he outgrows the cutesy hipsterism (not to mention the slightly disturbing orientalism on display in Darjeeling) to become a memorable filmmaker. And the daddy obsession really needs to go–even the dead daddy here is more present than most of the living characters. There’s also something to say about the icky women in this movie–a couple of fucktoys and a religious freak–but, the more I think about it, the less attention this movie deserves. It’s worthless.

Linda Linda Linda

Ah, Chicky. Thanks for bringing Linda Linda Linda into my life. We too rewound and rewatched the performance, and sang the song for days. I’m singing it again now. Where are the American movies like this? High school girls who look younger than 25, and who aren’t eager to get naked and screw each other over. Subtle and fun.

Frantic

Another selection from the Chicky snowstorm trade (it wasn’t all muppets and hobbits). Frantic was really a pleasant surprise. I had no strong feelings at the beginning (more of the “well, it’s still snowing out, let’s put this one in” variety of opinion), but really got into this one.

Coal Miner’s Daughter

Never had seen this one from beginning to end. A surprising ending, given the biopic formula we’re currently stuck in. Good stuff, even though Jones steals the show. It almost becomes his movie. Anyone else feel that way? This one’s getting the BF treatment. Stay tuned.

Last, and certainly least, a few words about American Idol. I started watching this season in the accidental sort of way: Seinfeld during dinner turned into Idol. I could’ve gotten up–or even reached over to the remote–to switch off the TV, but I sat and watched. At the beginning. And, as with many things, I just fell into a groove of watching. There wasn’t anyone particularly interesting, I was just curious about the spectacle, and every once in a while I like to check the temperature of American pop culture. It’s like watching a single episode of the Bachelor, just to be horrified. I’m quitting Idol, though, after the only remotely interesting contestant was voted off this week. That rock-n-roll nurse from Indiana didn’t have the greatest voice in the world, but she was cool. Everyone else bores me to the point of…well, actually turning off the TV.

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I Am Republican

I Am Legend is the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Truly. I have to respectfully disagree with Chicky here, and argue that she already donated the cost of her movie ticket to Huckabee–or at least the party. There are spoilers ahead, if anyone cares.

Let’s ignore the higher than usual number of mistakes, improbabilities, and technical glitches in the film.

Let’s ignore the fact that it rips off at least half a dozen other movies.

Let’s ignore the emotional manipulation of the dog (terrible!) and the cheap scare tactics.

Hell, for a moment let’s even ignore the over-the-top religiosity which, as a smart person and an atheist, I found silly, obnoxious, and offensive.

But what we can’t ignore–not even for a second–is the film’s atrocious politics, and religion still plays here.

I Am Legend is the perfect conservative film, and is all but a campaign commerical for the Republican Party. It’s purely conservative, and the most dangerous kind of propoganda film, because no one is talking about it as such.

Let’s begin at the end. The film’s vision of utopia–the survivor’s colony–appears as a walled-in community, with the gate guarded by two armed American soldiers. The first things we see when the gate opens? Aside from the soldiers? The American flag and a church. In a film about Jesus Christ, the church isn’t a shocker, but the flag? This represents the film’s version of a perfect community–the chance to start humanity over again–and this is what it looks like. And nevermind that these monsters can scale buildings, an eight-foot stone wall ought to keep them out. Certainly the troops could’ve pilfered some damn razor wire from Falluja–I mean New York.

Just for fun, let’s take a look at Neville’s hobbies. He plays golf (well, he drives golf balls off the wing of a fighter jet) and he hunts with automatic weapons–out the window of his shiny, sparkling Ford Cobra (one of the baddest street-legal muscle cars America still makes). When he’s not racing around the un-decayed city in his Cobra, he’s doing battle in his Ford Explorer, which can run over about 30 people/monsters, have a city street-lamp dumped on it, nearly fall off a pier, and be bashed with countless monsters’ heads without stopping. Honey, let’s buy a fucking Ford! Look closely at all the abandoned cars; you won’t find a Ford. So, an SUV and muscle car driving hunter and golfer who lives in a million dollar plus townhouse (as others are pointing out, on a government employee’s salary)? If it smells like a Republican…

The mutants/zombies/vampires are actually human beings capable of thought. Neville is wrong when he declares they’ve lost all human attributes; the ‘leader’ is hunting Neville–he sets loose his pet dogs (kept on a leash) on him, moves the mannequin to mess with him (by far the most frightening moment in the movie), and sets a trap that is a copy of the traps Neville’s been setting. Does Neville recognize the humanity of the ‘race’ of mutants? I don’t think so, yet we can’t help but sympathize with these creatures (they also live in ‘caves’ and inexplicably hoard money–hello, Osama). He’s busy experimenting on them, killing scores of them, and keeping records as photographs on his lab wall. Collateral damage I guess–all in the name of science. He’s seeking to recreate the perfect human–the perfect Christian, the perfect American.

It gets messy here. If these inhuman zealots–which we created, by the way (hello, Taliban) represent a threat to the human race, our Soldier, Scientist, and Savior (so declared the magazine cover displayed on the fridge) represents our only hope against them. Yet he–the figure of Christ himself in the movie–becomes a suicide bomber at the end. The film’s antagonist, who likely is after Neville for capturing his lady, dies (along with her–when she was nearly cured) in the end, without second thought. (And let’s forget that a grenade would’ve destroyed that magic “chute” that what’s-her-name excaped through.)

The message of the film? It looks to me like “match zealotry with zealotry.”

Terrifying.

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On a lighter note…

Regarding the new movie, Michael Clayton, Manhola Dargis has this to say:

“We need George Clooney, just as we needed Warren Beatty — seducer of heavy hearts and troubled minds, the beautiful bearer of our very bad tidings.”

Maybe I’m sentimental, but this works for me.

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Movie Week: Day #7

The last one…

An Unreasonable Man.

Note: I have a crush on Ralph Nader, and unapologetically voted for him in 2000. If anyone wants to accuse Nader/people like me of handing the presidency to the sitting douche bag, I’ll show you the way. If you won’t listen, I’ll fight you.

The film begins with a quote from G. B. Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

And progress he has brought. What I find most interesting about him is that he does contradict the Shaw quote in one way: he has adapted to the capitalist system and works from the inside–a very reasonable position. Being a consumer advocate is a very reasonable thing in America. He’s not fighting consumerism; he wants to tame the capitalist beast. Some would argue he’s more conservative than progressive because of this; I think he’s the most American thing: pragmatic. And I do think pragmatism still has a place in philosophy and politics.

The big question is why he ran for president. Some think (and I’m on the fence with this one) that he did/would do more good remaining outside of politics (i.e., not holding political office). But as consumers of democracy, as consumers of America (because we aren’t really citizens now, are we?), don’t we deserve choice? Republican or Democrat isn’t really a choice; Democrat is merely the lesser of two evils. Democrats who demonize Nader are afraid of losing their stranglehold on progressive voters.

And let’s not forget that Al Gore did win the presidential election in 2000, Nader or no Nader.

The film is a good look at a career that has spanned over fifty years and a man responsible for seat belts and airbags. And who couldn’t love a man who once called hot dogs “missiles of death?”

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Almost there…

Yet another classic that I just saw for the first time, and–in my opinion–the best Jack Nicholson movie. It was nice to see Jack before he became a parody of himself, before his signature grin became a signature, and when he performed with a touch of insecurity–not performed insecurity. And Faye Dunnaway is gorgeous.

The movie is great, and could’ve been made yesterday, with the exception of a line like “L.A.’s a small town.” I had a tough time believing the setting was the 1940s for some reason; the movie looked too much like the 1970s, if that makes any sense. Yet this was not a major distraction, just a personal twinge. And I’m still naive enough to feel unsettled about how ultimately little has changed since…well, the turn of the (20th) century, I guess. How the century of the corporation–and its manipulation of the government for its own profit–continues, perhaps stronger than ever. How the line (also mentioned here) “As little as possible” is the motto for “free-market capitalism” (the “free-market” part is a myth) and for about half of the American population–whether they understand its implications or not.

A down-home, country boy villain that really is purely evil (Sound like anyone? Oh, right.) caps the trio of excellent performances. Loved the scene where he and Jack eat fish–with the heads still on. Loved the movie.

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Movie Week: Day #5

In which I get on track and blog a total of seven movies…

I made the mistake of watching Maxed Out right before going to bed. I don’t know why I didn’t assume I’d be angry and anxious–and unable to sleep–after viewing it. After watching it, I’m officially naming August “Financial Aneurysm Month.” A while back it was food (un)safety. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling like I (as well as most of the people I know) am a couple of steps away from financial destitution. And the cards, for all of us, are stacked in destitution’s favor.

Before I get too ahead of myself, the film explores the explosion of credit and the failure of the government to regulate it. Reminds me of the tagline for another movie I’m going to blog, Chinatown: “As little as possible.” Seems to be what the government is doing in all matters domestic, but allowing the banking industry the kind of freedom from regulation that they have is unconscionable. The film goes beyond individual financial woes, however, to show that a government that, itself, operates on credit has already bought into the ideology. We all know that credit isn’t a good thing, and the intelligent–and capable–ones among us do all we can to avoid it, but sometimes you just can’t. And the system is rigged that way.

Here are a few things I learned from the docko:

  • The average American has over $9,000 in credit card debt. And I haven’t seen a card that offers lower than a 14% APR. It’s much higher if you have any debt. You don’t even need to do the math to see the problem here.
  • About those check-cashing firms: regular banks own them. In fact, banks make the most money off of their poorest customers. And race is, most certainly, a factor for banks.
  • Pawn shops are basically banks, too. At least people use them that way.
  • Not a new idea, but the film reinforced the fact that there is really no such thing as “business ethics.” An oxymoron, really.

Now I don’t ever want to buy a house. Or, if I do, I’ll have at least 20% of the cost as a down payment. Which should happen in about…128 years.

There’s a lot more to say about the film and the causes of Americans’ credit woes, but I have to stop now, as I’m again feeling the way I did the night before last when I watched the thing. And if this couldn’t sound more boring to you, then you should definitely watch it: it’s good for you, like fiber and history.

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