Thursday, February 28, 2008

Garfield is dead; long live Garfield

Following up on yesterday's post about Garfield minus Garfield, my very good friend Robert pointed out another Garfield meme to me. This is somewhat old news (all the other blog posts I can find about it are from summer '06), but I hadn't heard of it, and in connection with yesterday's post on Garfield I thought it was worth sharing.

I'm going to link you to a YTMND video displaying six strips that ran the week before Halloween in 1989. I would just link to the Garfield archives and embed them in the post, but the archives have apparently been colorized, and the mini-series is much more profound and effective in black and white.

So go watch Garfield is Dead and then come on back here.

Spooky, right? As you saw in the video, the series is even addressed on the Wikipedia page for Garfield.

Here's what freaks me out: there's no "it was all a dream" ending. There's no ending at all. Garfield is shown to force himself into a state of denial that brings Jon and Odie back to him, and the final word panel begins with the phrase "An imagination is a powerful tool." This is no cautionary tale, and no nightmare. Garfield never woke up from his bleak, lonely world, he simply refused to accept it, and forced himself into perceiving that Jon and Odie were with him. Canonically, there has been no retraction or resolution.

In other words, for the last 19 years, the Garfield strip has been a fevered, desperate delusion, dreamt up by the eponymous main character to stave off his crushing loneliness. As he has apparently eaten no real food in that time, the only sensible conclusion is that Garfield the cat died sometime in October, 1989, and his ghost, unable to move on from his home but unable to deal with its emptiness, has imagined life continuing as-usual because the alternative is too hard to accept.

That puts a rather bleak and heart-wrenching spin on the whole thing, and creates a fascinating counterpoint to my complaint yesterday that "it's the same strip over and over". If the events of the strip are figments of Garfield's (limited) imagination, it would make sense that he should return to the same occurrences and ideas over and over again. It's all he's got. It's what comforts him.

Now, the actual answer is far more mundane. Apparently Jim Davis "laughed loudly" when someone mentioned these strips and the "Death of Garfield" speculation that they spawned. He stated that Garfield is not dead, and that:

It was simply a week before Halloween and Jim wanted to do something legitimately scary, as opposed to Halloween-scary. "Ghosts aren't scary..." he told me before explaining that before writing the strips he went around to everyone he knew and asked them what truly scared them. The answer he got most often was "being alone" or "dying alone". Just that simple.1

So, of course, it was never meant to count as Garfield canon. Incidentally, Garfield's repetition and lack of inspiration is actually due to the fact that, apparently, Jim Davis is not the guy who draws the strip daily. He's too busy managing the Garfield business, and has hired a team of artists who do the strip for him. The Wiki page claims that he still writes and sketches each strip, leaving only the finishing work to the team, but I'm going to guess that most of the time he just lets them slap something together and signs his name on it.

But in the last two days I've discovered three disparate and very intriguing new ways to interpret the Garfield daily strip. And I prefer any one of them to "I'll license anything you put in front of me."

  1. Read the full story on Boing Boing

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I hate Mondays

Obviously, given the title, it would have been better if I posted this actually ON a Monday, but whatever.

Most of the people in my generation, and the one just prior, will know immediately that I am referencing Garfield. For those of you who just got to this planet, Garfield is about a fat orange tabby named Garfield who loves lasagna, hates Mondays, and is incredibly lazy. He's usually either torturing the dog, Odie, or mocking his owner, Jon Arbuckle.

I used to love Garfield; I had many of the early collections and it was my second favorite comic after Calvin and Hobbes. But Jim Davis is like the anti-Bill Watterson. Whereas Watterson refused to ever license his characters for anything (those window stickers of Calvin peeing on things/praying to things are totally unlicensed), Davis couldn't sell out fast enough or completely enough.

Garfield has been a Saturday morning cartoon (with dozens of "specials"), a live-action movie (and its sequel, and now an animated 3D movie (with its own pending sequel); they've sold prints, stickers, T-shirts, baseball caps, boxer shorts, CD holders, plush toys, figurines, bedsheets, pillow covers, window curtains, shower curtains, bamboo curtains, mudflaps, magnets, mousepads, coffee mugs, piggy banks, snow globes, bobbleheads, salt and pepper shakers, door stops, clocks, antenna balls, and toilet seat covers.

I did not make any of that up. And that's not even including CafePress, where you can slap one design on everything.

Also unlike Watterson, who knew that he essentially had nothing more to say when it came to Calvin and Hobbes and decided to retire the strip after ten years1, 2008 marks 30 years of daily Garfield comics. And let me tell you, the well ran dry a good decade ago.

It really has gotten to the point where if you've read one Garfield comic, you've read them all. Garfield is now near the bottom of my list of favorite comics. Not quite the bottom, because there are some TRULY shitty comics in circulation these days, but well below Non Sequitur, Get Fuzzy, Zits, and a number of others.

So why am I blogging about Garfield if I think it's tripe?

Well, first of all, there's a team of filmmakers that are re-enacting Garfield cartoons in "live action" shorts. Being only three panels, they then proceed to fill the rest of the time with "tribute" music videos. The music videos themselves are kind of funny, and at least they're also short.

For example, here's the strip from December 03, 1991, with a music video tribute to Alan Jackson's "Chattahoochee":

This one's music video "tribute" is a collection of review snippets for the aforementioned Garfield movies set to music. Allow me a moment of predictable cliche in saying: Mee-ouch.

Check out lasagnacat's YouTube account for more.

So as you've seen even by those two strips alone, you've got two recurring themes in the Garfield strip. Garfield's fat and lazy, and Jon is borderline retarded -- or at least socially inadequate -- and Garfield sees fit to comment on it with frequency.

But someone apparently had the brilliant idea that Garfield's commentary was unnecessary. Someone created Garfield minus Garfield, in which they remove Garfield from the comic panels. The result is an astonishingly existential comic starring Jon Arbuckle.

Take, for example, this strip from January 8, 2007:

Retarded, right? It's not even partially funny. It doesn't even make sense ("they're your shirt"?).

But look at what happens when you take Garfield away:

Isn't that the best comic ever? Or how about this one:

Holy CRAP.

As described on the Garfield minus Garfield site:

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life?

Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against lonliness and methamphetamine addiction in a quiet American suburb.

I think Garfield (minus Garfield) just became my favorite comic. And the best part is, with 30 years to cull from, and more being done every day, there will never stop being new ones.

  1. Fans may not realize it (or want to), but that was in 1995, thirteen years ago. Next year there will be students in high school who were born after C&H ended. But enough about C&H, that's a blog for another day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


A couple videos for you today, both on the same theme. The first, a TED Talk.

TED now has an iTunes feed, where every day they upload a new talk from their massive library of insightful discussions. I have talks running in the background as I work pretty much every day, and I'm skipping around to what sounds interesting.

Today I ran across this talk, a talk from TED 2005 by journalist Carl Honore.

This is an important topic, and was especially noteworth for me since I've got a bunch of things happening at once, and my attempts to do them all quickly and simultaneously makes it such that I get very few of them done at all.

I think a lot of us have things we want to get done or a place we feel like we need to be going. But this is all there is (depending on your spiritual persuasion, I guess, but that's a topic that I will address in forthcoming posts), and we should enjoy it now and again.

The other video is a little stop-motion short film made by a dear friend of mine. The film was made for a "film festival" among our friends -- i.e. everybody make a film if you want to and then we'll screen them all at a party. It's called "Going Postal", and based on the title I expected...well, something quite different than what I got. But the visuals and the story have such heart and such humor, and the music is so perfectly chosen, that I found myself deeply moved by the video and am still moved every time I see it.

She disabled the embedding on the video, but click here to check it out on the YouTube page. It'll be good to go directly to it anyway, so you can bookmark it for a gloomy day.

Monday, February 25, 2008

From the mouths of babes

This vid is making the rounds and it is pretty amazing.

Star Wars: A New Hope, in the words of a three year old.

I love the cup she's got her hand on and drinks from occasionally. It makes it feel like a for-real interview of some kind.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pretty much what I expected

No Country won screenplay, directing, and picture, deserving none of them (maybe directing).

Transformers was robbed; Golden Compass didn't hold a candle to ILM's work on Transformers.

And the Oscar goes to...

So yesterday I attended a marathon showing of the five Best Picture nominees. Apparently this is something that the AMC theatre chain does annually, or at least has started doing annually.

Some people might wonder, "Five films in a row? Several of them longer than two hours? Surely that's madness!" I respond, of course, that it's Sparta, and kick them down a well.

It sounds like it would be more than you could handle, but I tell you what, I loved it. Definitely called for stretch/bathroom breaks in between, but otherwise it was a wonderful experience to just set aside a day and let all these different films wash over me.

But what did I think of the films? I'll give you a brief rundown in the order in which they were screened:


Maybe it's because it was the first one screened, and therefore the others had to be measured against it, but I have to admit, Michael Clayton was easily my favorite of the group.

It's what my friend Brian called an "intellectual thriller", and I think that's an apt description. It's a fairly slow movie, with a lot of dialogue -- but the dialogue is good and it's very well-delivered. There were very few lines of dialogue that stood out to me as being particularly well-written (aside from "I am Shiva the God of Death"), but none stood out as poorly-written, either. It was all very natural and believable, and I think that's an achievement in itself.

There's not a lot of action or suspenseful moments, but when there is suspense, it's pretty tense. Some great moments of directing -- almost all of these films have a long shot or two, with varying degrees of complexity or success, and in this film there's an "assassination" sequence that all plays out in one shot. Although the "cool" factor is one thing, the choice to do the action in a single shot is also a powerful narrative tool, demonstrating how quick and ruthless the process is. It happens without cuts and it's still over in just a couple minutes.

I've become a fan of George Clooney, which I resisted in the ER/Batman and Robin days. I don't think the "hot young man" thing was ever right for him, but the "self-assured and sexy middle-aged man" thing is in his favor. Probably the salt-and-pepper hair is what makes that difference.

His performance is mostly restrained. He has a few moments of the smarmy sarcasm he displays in the Ocean's series, but in the context of the film I think they're earned and he pulls them off well. For a tense socio-political thriller, the film had some good laughs, and many of them were Clooney. That said, I think he's going to lose out his Best Actor statue to Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood).

Tom Wilkinson turns in a phenomenal performance as the brilliant manic-depressive Arthur, and I do think he's got a good shot at the statue, although Casey Affleck and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) have a decent shot as well.

Oh, and shout-out to Tilda Swinton, who never really plays an outright villainess, but a more subtle "person who makes bad decisions for their own sake". She plays that same role here but she does it so well, and across such a range of characters through her career, that you can hardly call her typecast.

The score is fine, some of the more intense moments were ratcheted up yet another notch with James Newton Howard's pumping score, but for the most part the music sat in the background and just added color to the world, which is as it should be. It is nominated for best score, and it's not bad, but there are other scores on the block that have a better shot at it.


Apparently this is a really intense movie that "grabs you by the balls and shakes you around," to quote my eminently quote-able friend Travis. I must not be watching the same movie.

As usual for P.T. Anderson, the film is too goddamn long and self-indulgent. This film does not need to be the three hours that it is. Part of this is his penchant for long, unbroken shots, but unlike Michael Clayton, they feel unmotivated.

Some of them make sense, like the long shot of the workers working the pipeline when Daniel gets his son back, it's very old-style Kurosawa tableau type stuff.

But in other cases, it's like P.T.A. shot a bunch of coverage and decided not to edit most of it. I suppose he was going for a more "real" performance, but it really just looks like the actors are holding position expecting a cut, not getting it, and moving on to the next line. Just cutting out the unnecessary dead space in dialogue would have trimmed the movie by half an hour.

The movie has very little intensity, aside from a few strong scenes, but it tries to make itself more intense through the music, which is awful. The whole thing is overlaid with totally unmotivated tense string chords that would be more appropriate to a direct-to-DVD slasher pic than an oil-drilling film. The movie takes place in the deserts of California and I still expected someone to get eaten by a shark at some point. It's a cheap trick that only makes it more obvious that the film has no intensity on its own (the most intense parts of the film were the few parts with no music at all).

Aside from the deafened son, there was almost no character development at all, and ultimately I didn't really understand what the point of the film was. Characters would appear in the film and then disappear for an hour or more, only to show up later and act like they were important to the story.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano are the stand-out performances here and the only thing that made this film worth watching. Dano's faith healing exorcism of a woman's arthritis is, as Day-Lewis' character remarks, "One goddamn hell of a show." Dano's an actor with guts, willing to get crazy when the character needs it, and it's frightening and awe-inspiring.

Day-Lewis' turn as the shrewd businessman is extraordinary and, as I said above, I can see him getting the Oscar. I wasn't as impressed with "I drink your milkshake" as everyone else was, but it's one hell of a weird line and he delivers it with vigor. I really enjoyed his performance, and the scenes with Day-Lewis and Dano together are the great parts of the movie. The highlight for me was the baptism scene. It was tense and dark and funny all at once. If the whole movie could have kept the same energy and meaning, that would have been something.


Fuck this movie. Seriously. For all the Oscar buzz and nominations this has been getting, this movie is an absolute mess. Stylistically it jumps all over the place, becoming a different movie entirely every fifteen minutes or so. The perspective in time jumps back and forth, and the performances are dull and predictable.

The cinematography is nominated for an Oscar and if it wins, I think I might be sick. The "look" of the film -- whether by grading or in-camera filtration -- was way overdone pretty much all the way through. We discover towards the end that the movie is, essentially, a book that the character of Briony has written, so I guess that makes the filtration bit more forgivable, but still, it all felt like a jumble of stuff that makes a film Oscar-y. Take some World War II, throw in an unrequited love, a bit of sexual aberrancy, and heavy sepia-like filtration, and voila! Oscar buzz.

The one good part about the film is the score, which does a great job of dovetailing from sound effects to music and back again, often bridging the gap between scenes or sequences. The long shot in the film of the British evacuation is a phenomenal technical achievement, and I'm especially impressed by how they managed to work a singing choir onscreen into the musical score; the timing was impeccable. I can see this winning for best score and not being too put-out by it.

The conceit of the film -- that the happy parts are Briony's eponymous atonement for what she did -- makes for an interesting theoretical discussion: real life is like this, the happy version is like that. And in a movie, since both cases are made up, isn't it better to let the characters have their happiness?

An interesting point, but as an actual act of "atonement", it's horseshit. Briony ruined two peoples' lives and I have no sympathy for her. She never told the truth to anyone that mattered, and doing it now is a cowardly cop-out. Fuck her, and fuck the movie for thinking that would work.


I've seen this before, but it was part of the package. As much as I like it, I don't really understand why it was nominated for Best Picture. It's good, but the BEST of last year? Even in the RUNNING? I dunno about that. Then again, I can't think of a lot of other good stuff from last year, so there you go.

As a drama, it's pretty strong stuff, if fairly standard indie fare. I will admit that the moment when Vanessa first holds her new baby, and they look each other in the eyes, I start to tear up like the bitch I am. As a comedy, it has a tendency to skirt the edge of Mean Girls-type humor -- which is not a bad thing. If anything I kind of wish Tina Fey had punched up the script a little if they wanted to go in that direction.

Ellen Page does a great turn as Juno, she's got a great balance of smart maturity and childlike immaturity that I really haven't seen in any other young actress, and I hope she wins the Oscar. But like Little Miss Sunshine last year, I kind of see this more as a token indie-nod than a real runner when it comes to best picture.


It's funny. Everyone tells me "It's not the best, but come on, it's the Coen Brothers, you have to see it."

I'm going to go further and say "It's not the best, and it's the Coen Brothers, so you've already seen it."

Pop quiz: a small-town man gets embroiled way over his head over a whole crapload of money, while the small-town sheriff puts the pieces together with a kind of backwoods brilliance and rural wit, nonetheless arriving too late to stop the bloodbath.

Quiz question one: Did I just describe No Country for Old Men, or Fargo?


No Country was basically Fargo in Texas, with less personality. Interestingly, I think you could have swapped the titles of There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men and both titles would have fit better.

Some good dialogue, mostly Tommy Lee Jones' character, and mostly standard Texas Sheriff wit. (Example: "This is a hell of a mess, ain't it Sheriff?" "Yeeup. And if it ain't, it'll do 'til the mess gets here.")

The film is probably the most intense of the lot, and does it without relying on stupid music tricks, so points there. And Javier Bardem's combination of deep voice, exotic accent, and sociopathic attitude make him a great villain. The Coens handle the action fairly well, making interesting and mostly good choices about when to show something in all its gruesome detail and when to leave it to the imagination.

The misstep they take is in leaving the climax completely to the imagination, and the film goes downhill from there with a bunch of seemingly unrelated scenes that never really tie together, including an apparently-obligatory car-gets-T-boned-by-another-car-through-an-intersection scene. The way it's shot it's so obvious what's coming that I just roll my eyes waiting for it to be over, and when it is over, nothing's really been accomplished by the scene story-wise.

And really, that was my feeling the last half-hour of the film. Of all the films I saw yesterday, only No Country made me fidget and want it to end. And it wasn't because it was the last film of the night and I wanted to go home. I could've watched more films because I was really enjoying myself. It was just boring.


My vote for Best Picture, of the five, goes to Michael Clayton. I could live with Juno getting it. But I doubt either will. It will either go to Atonement or No Country, is my guess.

I'm also rooting for Transformers to take the VFX Oscar.

Anyway, I will not be holding a running commentary on my blog here, so don't worry about checking it and just enjoy the show!

Friday, February 22, 2008


Sorry, I've been out of the loop a little this week. But this week I have a real excuse -- with the strike over, Descendants is back on track! Yay! And also a LOT of work to be done on that fan film I can't talk about yet.

But I'll be posting tomorrow night; I'm attending a marathon screening at the local AMC of all five Best Picture noms, in preparation for the Oscars on Sunday. We're having a party over here so I doubt I'll do the "running commentary" blog thing, but I will at least make my predictions/hopefuls for the evening.

So, those of you who are still reading, you're awesome. More to come.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The New Knight Rider

So I've had plenty to say about the design of KITT. But how was the show (currently only a TV movie, obviously a pilot for a series)?

Well, first off, full disclosure: I really don't remember the original Knight Rider. Like, at all. I remember two things from watching it as a child.

The first, there was an episode where KITT chased a bad guy down the street where I lived. If KITT had turned right instead of left, he would have driven right in front of my house1.

The second, KITT fucking ruled. (Although I wouldn't learn to say "fucking" until I was 6.) I would look forward to going to Universal Studios, when it was essentially just a studio masquerading as a theme park, because they had KITT there. You could stand in line and get to sit in KITT and talk to him. I don't imagine they got Mr. Feeny to actually sit there and do the voice for KITT, but I don't remember ever thinking "That's not KITT's voice." Ah, the innocence of childhood2.

So besides "KITT fucking rules", I didn't have any particular expectations when getting into the new Knight Rider. All in all, I liked it. And aside from my initial qualms about the KITT design, apparently he can change his color and design, and there is a particular version of KITT -- pure black with a futuristic grille -- that I can sit back and say "okay, that fucking rules."

The story is pretty thin so far. Something about a particular technology that the bad guys want to get their hands on and KITT is meant to protect the good guys from said bad guys. If it weren't so clear that this were a pilot and not the made-for-TV movie that they pretend it is, I would say the story sucked. Because essentially nothing happened. But since they obviously intend to expand upon it greatly in the forthcoming series, they get a pass -- for now.

KITT is voiced by Val Kilmer, an inspired 11th hour replacement for Will Arnett. I really liked the tone Kilmer brought to the voice. It's dry and mechanical, while still having the wit that I remember loving in the original KITT (though I'm sure I didn't get half the jokes back then). Given Kilmer's reputation for being somewhat difficult to work with, I wonder if they will be able to carry him through to the inevitable series.

Like I said, it's all pretty thin. The leading man and lady do a decent job of it, although the writing could be better (the leading lady's character apparently just up and dumps her current boyfriend, and their dog, once KITT and the leading man come along, which makes her a lousy whore), but all-in-all it's promising.

The use of the original theme gave me a thrill when it came up, and the effects work was quite good. I gave Ryan some shit about the abysmal out-the-window compositing seen in the commercials, but apparently NBC's promotional department put those together themselves. The final effects in the show were much better done, although there were still some green spill problems in a few shots.

There were some cool reveals of KITT's abilities, although occasionally it got a little gratuitous (did we really need TWO bullet-time shots, on two separate occasions, showing bullets bouncing off KITT as KITT's body immediately repaired itself?), and I can see KITT quickly becoming Batman's utility belt where he has a hyper-tech ability for pretty much any occasion. Gratuitous FX shots aside, they handle his abilities deftly and I think they would be able to reveal them to a pretty far extent while still maintaining the suspension of disbelief.

Oh, one last thing. For those wondering if it's a full reboot or a continuation of the previous series, it's a continuation. The original KITT got a brief cameo (albeit dismantled), and Hasselhoff made a surprisingly tasteful and restrained cameo as original driver Michael Knight.

All in all a decent start to what I'm sure will be an intriguing series. I like the way they've handled it so far, they've got me on board for at least a season.

  1. This occasion was when I first learned about the disconnect between fictional entertainment and reality -- I leapt up and ran to the door, hoping to catch a glimpse of KITT down the street. My parents had to explain that most of the things on television happened in the past and were not, in fact, occurring live.

  2. At this time, their studio tour included a tour through a Battlestar Galactica laser fight, which looking back was pretty impressive considering its time, and a Conan the Barbarian stage show. Considering that I always insisted on watching the Conan show -- which consisted of a sweaty, muscular man in a loincloth waving a sword around and fighting a giant snake (paging Dr. Freud) -- you'd think my parents might have clued in a little earlier.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Charlie Bit Me!

It's been a little while since I posted a YouTube find. Apparently I'm pretty behind on this one, as it's been up 9 months and has over 6 million views. So you may have seen it already. I haven't, and I thought it was great:

What I love about it is how real it is yet how perfectly "structured". It's almost as though it's a performance. Also, little kids with heavy accents are adorable.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Movie Review: In Bruges

I think I kind of made a mistake in promising an in-depth review of the film to you, who checks my blog with the heady anticipation of discovering what I think about...stuff.

While I am loathe to disappoint, I think this may be a relatively short post, since part of the fun of the movie is discovering it for the first time.

As I bragged about in an earlier post, I had the good fortune of reading the script over a year ago and have loved it ever since. The writer was also the director, so the script mostly translates to screen as written. Colin Farrell takes his character in a different direction than as written, so some lines don't play quite the same as I expected -- and it's about a 50-50 split between more funny and less funny. But most of you didn't read the script I'm sure, so it's pretty much all good funny. They also changed the ending from the version I read, though I have to say I think it's for the better.

As I mentioned above, the film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two hit men sent by their boss (played by Ralph Fiennes) to cool their heels in the titular town of Bruges, Belgium -- which, according to the film, is the most well-preserved medieval town in Europe -- after a hit gone wrong. It's an indie film at its heart, so despite the sudden surge of action towards the end it's mostly a character piece.

Farrell plays his role like a petulant, ADD child, and Gleeson his father figure. Fiennes as their employer is as always a phenomenal villain, with an intense look and sharky smile that makes you feel afraid of him even when he's smiling. Make that: ESPECIALLY when he's smiling.

The film isn't for everyone. It's slow in some parts and shockingly violent and abrupt at others; I personally liked it, since the pacing is intentionally reflective of the characters' states of mind, but I can see how people might find it uneven. It's surprisingly violent and bloody, even knowing that it's about hitmen.

But all told, what I said before still stands. If you like British gangster films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, and if you're into Tarantino, you'll like In Bruges a whole lot. McDonaugh doesn't have quite the skill and flair that Tarantino does for visuals -- which is okay in this case, as part of the idea is juxtaposing rather mundane reality with the aforementioned violence and bloodshed -- but what he DOES have in common with Mr. Brown is a superb ear for dialogue, and an intriguing perspective on those we would consider the "underworld".

Like Tarantino, also, you find yourself laughing at wholly inappropriate things and being unsure if you should. This is comedy at its darkest. The kind of movie where you laugh, then think "This movie is sick and I'm sick for laughing at it", and then you laugh some more. That kind. I think it may actually have backfired, as some people in the audience laughed at parts of the movie that were clearly not intended to be funny at all. For his part, I think the director quite deftly moves between a serious tone and an irreverent tone when the situation calls for it, but I suppose for some people once you open the door to laughing at certain things, for just a little while, you're gonna laugh at everything.

Going any further in-depth would require me to both delve deeper into the plot, which for your sake as a reader I don't want to do (it's a great ride the first time through), and would also require me to see the film again and digest it further.

Bottom line, check it out, preferably in theatres. I do think it's better than the trailers (which is a shame; I love a good trailer).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wii Would Like To Play

When news started leaking about a new Nintendo console, it was codenamed "Revolution". I liked the ring of "Nintendo Revolution", and I was excited about many of the features that were being kicked around as possibilities -- like the ability to buy legacy games online and play them on the console.

Then they made the official announcement...and they called it the Wii. And I thought that was the dumbest name I had ever heard. It's not even a word! I proclaimed that, regardless of its official name, I was going to continue calling it the Revolution.

Well, that didn't even last a month. Revolution is harder to say, and harder to type, so I gave in and went with Wii. Admittedly the name has grown on me. The tagline (see post title) is clever and so is the "the two 'i's are people -- it's about playing together!" design thing. Plus the Wii has been out for two years, and laughing at the name is passe.

So, we had our XBOX 360. We got a PS3 around Christmas. The only console we needed to complete our Next-Gen collection was a Wii -- and EVERYWHERE was sold out.

Brian got a bunch of gift cards to Target for Christmas -- literally just enough for a Wii. So since Christmas, we (by which I mean Katie) have been calling Target at 8 AM to see if they got any shipments. At first it was just Sunday mornings at the local Target. Then it was every morning at the local Target (apparently they get daily shipments). Then it was every morning at every Target within 20 miles. It was getting to the point that the calling took an hour of her day and she was starting to seriously demand some money for the gig. Having worked in retail myself, I'm sure that the Target employees didn't enjoy it any more than we did.

On Friday we had a cock-block (I tried to come up with an amusing equivalent that started and rhymed with "Wii" but I couldn't do it): our local Target had a Wii in stock! I raced out there and got there five minutes after the store opened -- and discovered that they had only had one, and some woman had been there AT OPENING and snagged it. That put a damper on the whole day.

Then yesterday, Saturday, Brian and I are both awakened by Katie, who frantically informs us that a Target in Culver City has 20 Wiis in stock, and the guy said if we get there in the next hour we have a shot at getting one.

So we all rush down to Culver City (a 40 minute drive) and come back, at last, triumphant owners of a Nintendo Wii. We spent the rest of the day playing Super Mario Galaxy. Fun game so far, although all of Mario's grunts and exclamations make it sound like whatever drugs he takes to get to the Mushroom Kingdom (I guess I just answered my own question) are starting to take a toll on his sanity.

I was also excited about being able to play Super Mario World. Even though I had a Super NES, the SNES did not come packaged with Mario World and I never wound up getting a copy. I played it a little bit at my cousins' house, but they wouldn't let me play for long because watching someone play is boring and they wanted to go hit wasp nests with sticks. So I'm finally getting to play it.

My In Bruges review is forthcoming -- short version, go see the flick!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Growing Up

I've had a lot going on, many things I've wanted to blog about this week which means that none of them have ultimately been blogged.

I just found out that In Bruges is opening in limited release tomorrow, rather than a month from now. I've already got my tickets and will be posting a proper review either tomorrow or Saturday.

But I just wanted to post some quick thoughts I've had on "growing up" today. Thanks to a particular job that I will be blogging about when it is closer to completion, I've become pretty much self-sufficient. I've been able to pay off the debt I accumulated from my attempt to make a fan film about six years ago (it is appropriate, and one could argue ironic, that the debt I accumulated due to a fan film has been paid off by my work on another fan film), square off other debts I've accumulated from not being able to pay because of the other debt, and get on-pace with paying rent and such on time.

I would be remiss if I weren't to show my appreciation for Ryan for supporting me when I couldn't make rent, letting me go sometimes several months until I landed a gig that let me pay him back. Our other roommates Brian and Katie have also shouldered the burden in smaller but no less significant ways and I'm grateful to them as well.

But as I said, all accounts are squared and current now and, with any luck, they'll stay that way. Probably I'm not quite out of the lean years, and paying off one debt only means I'm looking at plunging into a greater risk/greater reward situation (for example, I will be taking out a loan to purchase the RED camera when my number comes up -- post about the camera forthcoming), but it's given me an opportunity to take a new stock of my life now that it, if temporarily, belongs to me again.

This goes back to the first part of a post I made way back when I first started the blog. My birthday is about 6 weeks off. I'll be 25. My tastes and interests have obviously changed since I was 12, but I find that there's been a quiet shift some time even in the last year.

I have to be honest: the most exciting thing to me about turning 25 is seeing how much my car insurance is going to decrease. I won't find out what my next term premium is until a couple days after my birthday, and I'm actually looking forward to it.

After paying off my standing debt, I "treated" myself by purchasing a new washing machine, and a brand-new couch for the living room.

My God. I think I've officially become Danny Tanner.

Now, I don't want to sound like I didn't buy anything cool (as funny as it is to imply that). The purchase of the couch was precipitated by the purchase of a new HDTV1, the mounting of which required a re-arrangement of the living room furniture. I'll admit I've got kind of a gadget fetish; I inherited it from my dad, who was an early adopter of pretty much everything. But the fact remains that I was more excited about the fact that the HDTV meant a new couch, than the HDTV itself.

I think I'm reaching a point where I'm ready to settle a bit. Not necessarily the "settle down, raise a family" yadda yadda. But in the last 8 years I've moved six times; my "permanent" address shifted around as my parents got divorced2; and I've held six different jobs (okay, four and two long-term freelance gigs).

I think I've reached the point in my life when I want to have a home that is mine. Not a place I'm staying until I move again. I lived in my last apartment for almost three years and it never really felt like I had put down any roots, always as if I were just waiting until the next step. I'm ready to make a home somewhere, and I think my buying the couch means I'm ready to make it here.

Obviously I'm still renting, and I still have roommates. As to the latter, I'm glad about that. I have never lived "alone" and I don't think I could do it. I've always had roommates -- friends, family -- and I don't think living alone would suit me. I would obviously like to own my home but I can live with renting (especially with the real estate market the way it is -- Christ, I actually just said that).

The interesting part, looking at this all, is that I used to miss being a kid. The first few years of my life were very heavily documented with my father's giant VHS camcorder, and I never watched them. For one thing, because I don't watch VHS anymore as a matter of principle. But for another, I found them depressing. I missed the days where I didn't have to worry about anything, no responsibilities, no real fears or concerns.

But I was telling a friend of mine about that recently and I realized, in saying so, that I don't feel that way anymore. Sure, I still kind of miss the easy-going life I didn't appreciate when I had it, but at the same time, I kind of don't. I like being self-sufficient.

I've come to realize that the responsibilities of being an adult -- paying the gas bill, paying insurance, making your own appointments for things -- are worth it for the freedoms of being an adult. And while materialism isn't the best way to live your life, at the same time there IS comfort to be found in having nice things. If only because they represent my freedom as an adult. That is my television, that is my couch. I didn't get them secondhand off friends or Craigslist. I bought them brand new with my own money that I made with my own hard work and talents, and I keep them in the place I call home, the roof over my head that I keep there with my money (and the good graces of my friends).

So of course there's always a balance in self-sufficiency. I couldn't afford to live where I live without roommates; and as I mentioned above, I'm not sure I could emotionally handle living alone anyway. My point is not so much "I'm doing it all on my own", but more "I'm living by my own choices." And that's a really good feeling.

  1. I actually bought two, if we're being honest. One for the living room, and another, smaller one that I've mounted by my computer. I actually bought a number of things that I needed for the quality and security of the job, but I'll get into them later. The only thing cooler than having the money to buy gadgets is being REQUIRED to buy gadgets you want, as part of the job.

  2. Please don't offer your sympathies and don't be sorry. I'm not; everyone is happier this way.

Monday, February 04, 2008

And while we're at it...

Sticking with the Superbowl Ad theme, and giving a callback to my previous post about KITT...

Why in the hell couldn't THIS have been the new KITT?

Get rid of the Christmas lights under the headlamps (they'd have to alter the front of the car anyway for the red running lights), paint that shit BLACK AS THE NIGHT ITSELF, and all I can say is HELL YES.

But no. It's a Mustang.

Superbowl Ads

It's a strange thing that the Superbowl has become, the Superbowl of advertising. I mean, I get it -- it's the one time you KNOW that tens of millions of people are going to be tuned in. More, it's become tradition that those who don't even watch football will watch the Superbowl FOR THE ADS. It's the only television event I know of that people will TiVO so that they can fast forward TO the commercials.

So of course, it's self-perpetuating. The companies that can afford to do so make awesome ads because they know people will be watching, and people watch the ads because they expect them to be awesome.

All the ads are currently available on Myspace, but I wanted to highlight the one I liked most. It's the Tide to Go ad, launching what I assume is their new campaign.

My favorite part is how the stain suddenly and inexplicably sounds infuriated right near the end.