Monday, March 31, 2008

The Power of Unyielding Commissioning Compels You

This Issue Affects All Of Us, Man - Heard of Net Neutrality? Most of us haven't. Well, you see it's. Um. How do I put this? I'll just let Stewart and Hodgman explain:

This, as you might imagine, is a huge issue. For anyone who uses the internet (something you're doing right now!), it means that your ISP could decide, in effect, what you can and cannot access. So who's fighting for you? The good people at Free Press (no, not the Detroit newspaper). A feature in Friday's Washington Post outlines the fight. I urge you to check it out and get informed on this issue.

Improved Sales Pitch - The Pitchfork Festival just put on some major additions. Headlining Sunday night is now Dinosaur Jr., a band of whom we simply can't get enough. Maybe we'll see Moose and Fatso there again. Seriously, this makes the whole thing worthwhile. Furthermore, Mission Of Burma makes their Union Park return, but this time they are playing their landmark album, VS., on Friday night. Other additions: Jarvis Cocker, Ghostface and Raekwon, The Apples in Stereo and various others. Go to their site for more info. That other festival, Lollapalooza, announces their lineup next week.

Much Better Than a Children's Museum - Death Cab For Cutie has announced their 2008 summer tour, and they are scheduled to play Millennium Park at the Pritzker Pavilion on June 3 with openers Rogue Wave. The Decemberists played in that venue last summer. Anyone go? I know it rained or something. How was it besides that? Tickets go on sale to the general public on 4/19. But if you join the DCFC fan club, you get first crack on 4/16. However, the fan club comes at a cost of 30 bucks per year! That's almost as much as AAA. So I guess I'm saying, anyone in the fan club wanna hook me up with prime seats? I'd be eternally grateful.

He Survived - Dith Pran, the subject of the movie The Killing Fields, died yesterday from pancreatic cancer. Yes, this probably seems off-topic for this blog, but if you've seen The Killing Fields, you can't help but remember his amazing life as portrayed by Haing S. Ngor. If you haven't yet seen The Killing Fields, what's wrong with you? Go see it. See it this week and think of Pran. The LA Times featured a superb obituary yesterday - very much worth reading. Rest in peace, Pran.

OWR: The Killing Fields

84: Demanding

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The 2007 Kaelin Award

The year was 2007. There were a lot of problems in the world, but despite that, nobody truly stepped up to take our minds off of them with totally meaningless coverage. Instead, the empty news of 2007 was handled by committee. We’ve already covered the leading candidates for Most Worthless Person of the Year. You all voted. It is time to bestow the ’07 Kaelin Award to our winner.

America, your voting ended in a tie between Howard K. Stern and Heather Mills, so we are forced to make a judge’s decision here. Because Stern sued Rita Cosby and did eventually fade into the woodwork after proven not to be Daniellynn’s father, we are giving him the benefit of the doubt, undeniably worthless though he is. Therefore, our final decision on Most Worthless ’07 lands on Heather Mills.

And speaking of judging, even though we’re well into 2008 now, just last week, the Mills/McCartney divorce went final, and in doing so unearthed a treasure trove of evidence of her further worthlessness. There’s no way we’re going to be able to cover all of it here because we don’t have time to delve into all the ample condemnation against her in the official verdict. But here are some of the highlights from that result and her other actions throughout the year.

  • Claimed she was to give all of her Dancing with the B-Listers dough to charity, but it turns out she donated less than half of it
  • Hinted that McCartney was behind death threats and claimed she contemplated suicide in a sympathy ploy
  • Was told by the police to stop calling them with emergencies
  • Complained that McCartney flies first class and is “forcing” his daughter to fly coach, while she did the exact same thing
  • From the judge: “I am driven to the conclusion that much of her evidence, both written and oral, was not just inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid. Overall she was a less than impressive witness.”
  • Compared herself to Princess Diana
  • In dancing with the B-Listers, played a part in clearing the path for a Steve Guttenberg resurgence
  • Dumped a pitcher of water over the head of McCartney’s attorney during the trial and then bragged to the media about having “baptized her" (Yes, this was in '08, so it shouldn't count, but we don't see her winning this year)
  • Went on the telly to lie her good leg off and complain about media attention.
Warning, this is a lot to tolerate. You may want to skip these.

Mills is the weakest of Most Worthless winners we’ve ever had. She’s not selling anything to us, and she does do some charity work, making her something of a flawed champion. It’s hard to be truly worthless when you’d doing even a modicum of charity. But you can still be the most worthless. So Heather Mills, because you lied to everyone around, went on TV to play the shrill harpy and complain about having too much media coverage, and apparently are only concerned with your net worth, Heather Mills, we have no choice but to deem you the Most Worthless Person of the Year for 2007.

And this guy is really pissed off about the whole thing:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mort and Stephen Preview April

Today we’re unveiling a new feature here at Fighting the Youth. We’re going to preview the upcoming April movie releases, and we have contributions from varying perspectives.

Mort lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Ethel. He's 86 years old. His grandson, Daniel, has set up his computer with Skype, so barring any technical difficulties, we will be talking with him in real time from Chicago.

Stephen lives in the Ukranian Village neighborhood of Chicago. He’s 26 and works as a barista at a café on Chicago Ave., though he hates being called a barista. He refused to have his photo taken, but here are his glasses.

IMDB Synopsis: An aging football legend and the hot college star he's drafted for his pro team fight for the heart of an intrepid up-and-coming journalist. Oh, it all takes place in 1925.
Click here for trailer
FtY: OK, guys, so you both saw the trailer, what’s your take?

Stephen: I thought we were done with football for the time being. Isn’t it time for people to start having baseball with their Bud Light? Everybody knows that sports is the opiate of the masses. Noam Chomsky said so – or somebody, maybe it was Nietzche-
Mort: Ray Nitschke?? No, not Nitschke. Nitschke played for the Packers, but that was much later – in the 1960s. You probably don’t remember that, Stephen. This… this is about Red Grange, the Galloping Ghost we called him. But he went to Illinois, not Princeton. Nitschke played for Illinois as well, but that’s a story for another time. I saw Grange at the Polo Grounds when I was just ten years old. I was one of the only children in attendance. He had come back from an injury, and was playing mostly defensive back in those days. He didn’t have the same… the same shifty moves that he’d had before the injury. Even so, Grange made a play I will never forget-
FtY: ‘Scuse me, Mort. I’m sorry, can we get back to the film? It stars George Clooney, Renée Zellweger and John Krasinksi. What do you think about that casting?
Stephen: Are we to believe that a person like John Krasinksi actually existed in the 1920s? Furthermore that he can play a professional sport? Even furthermore that he is any good at it? Looks like he’s taking mumbling to heights only previously realized by Corey Haim. And Renée Zellwegger? Please. We’re supposed to believe that George Clooney falls for a woman who looks like she’s sucking on underripe lemons?
Mort: That’s that pretty girl from Show Me the Money! She’s got a lotta sass. I like it!

Stephen: Ugh, that’s another sports movie. That’s the precise moment Cameron Crowe showed he’d clearly lost it. And now we have Renée on our hands all the damn time.
FtY: So yes or no on Leatherheads?

Stephen: Hell no.

Mort: That guy with the big ears looks nothing like Grange. Grange was lean and tough. He was the Ice Man. This guy doesn’t look tough. But I like football, so maybe I’d go. Yeah, sure.

88 Minutes
IMDB Synopsis: A college professor who moonlights as a forensic psychiatrist for the FBI receives a death threat telling him that he has only 88 minutes to live, causing him to scramble to stay alive while he tries to learn his potential assailant's identity.
Click here for trailer
Stephen: Come on, what professor answers the phone in the middle of class? I’ve seen professors actually destroy students’ phones when they don’t shut the ringer off.

Mort: That’s your quibble, Stephen? Maybe I’m getting slow in my old age, but did any of this make any sense? It’s all farkakt. A guy gets convicted without any evidence?

Stephen: A white guy at that.

Mort: And then he’s in prison, and he’s innocent, but he wants to kill the guy who put him there rather than fight for a new trial? And the FBI doesn’t believe him, even though they work with the guy? And it’s all on TV the whole time?
Stephen: Well, MSNBC does seem to like interviewing dudes in orange jumpsuits.

Mort: I don’t think I could see this movie unless I bring along someone who can explain it all to me. I gotta take a pass.

Stephen: I gotta agree with Mort on this one. Looks like a standard Pacino hollerin’ film. Plus, I can’t sit through anything with Leelee Sobieski.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
IMDB Synopsis: Peter jets off to Hawaii for a vacation that is supposed to help him deal with his recent break-up with his TV star girlfriend, Sarah. Little does he know Sarah's traveling to the same resort as her ex ... and she's bringing along her new boyfriend.
Click here for trailer

Mort: I saw a billboard down the street that said that my mom hates Sarah Marshall. My mom’s been dead for twenty-five years. Why would she hate Sarah Marshall? The name’s a bit goy, to be sure, but I’m sure she’s a nice enough girl.
FtY: Mort, I don’t think that was supposed to be your mom. That refers to the fictional main character’s mom.

Mort: Oh, I see... Why should she hate Sarah Marshall? She looked cute to me in that bikini!

Stephen: These Apatow movies are all the same. I already saw 40 Year Old Virgin, how many times can you take my money from me, Judd?

FtY: You don’t think they’ve been consistently funny, though?

Mort: Yeah, you don’t think they’re funny? What’s an Apatow movie, by the way?

Stephen: Pffft. I haven’t seen the rest of ‘em.

FtY: So that’s a thumbs down on Sarah Marshall?

Stephen: Maybe if someone else rented it.

Mort: I hope the shower scenes aren’t limited to the doughy guy, but it looks fun. You know, Ethel and I went to Hawaii once. It was in 1962, and they didn’t have jets to fly so it took sixteen hours-
FtY: Morty, I’m sorry. We’re moving on.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
IMDB Synopsis: Aboard their flight to Amsterdam, Harold and Kumar are caught trying to sneak a bong onboard, the first step in a misadventure that finds them mistaken for terrorists and sent to Guantanamo Bay.
Click here for trailer

FtY: Now, did either of you see the first one?

Stephen: Yeah.

Mort: First one? I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I have no idea what that was I just saw. I’m sorry, Ethel is calling me… What? WHAT? I’m on the computer! Just… Just hold on a minute!
FtY: Mort, do you have to go?


I think we lost Mort, but I don't think he's giving Harold and Kumar an endorsement. OK, Stephen, any thoughts?

Stephen: Thank God Doogie was still available. You think he wasn’t waiting for that call?

FtY: He is on a pretty popular TV show right now.

Stephen: You watch TV? Pffft. Anyway, aside from the cheetah ride, the first one was underrated. This seems like more of the same.

FtY: So you’re going to see this one?

Stephen: Yeah, I’m down… on video.

So there you have it. We'll be back with Morty and Stephen again to preview May where the summer blockbusters will start making their appearance.

Friday, March 21, 2008

2007 Films in Review (Part 5 of 5)

Part 1 (w/ intro) here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.
Part 4 here.
NOTE: Spoilers Abound

For some reason this film was disregarded at the theaters and in the awards. David Fincher told his tale uniquely, letting the story find its own way to the main character. Details are key here, and we eventually view everything from the point of view of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character. It’s not so much a study of what happened, it’s a study of the study of what happened. Fincher builds the tension so well, that I found myself yelling at the screen for the first time in my life. This film at least deserved a Best Director nomination, and will hopefully be revered in years to come. There’s a good chance it will continue to be ignored, but it merits notice as the unique tale that it is.

The reviews were excellent. Everyone raved about it. Brad Bird and the Pixar people outdid themselves with this one. It is a story of a lovable rat. A rat, people! I have rats in my alley. I hate them. They hate me. But somehow this movie pulled off everything it wanted and more. It quite simply has it all. You can’t point to any one scene as being emblematic of the picture. Scenes in the kitchen have their own feel as do chases around Paris streets and sewers. As soon as it was over, I wanted to watch it again. The animation is good enough that you don’t notice how good it is. I was so enthralled with the story that the visuals were an afterthought. Honestly, I felt this film probably should have been nominated for best picture, and in a weaker year, I think it may have received that nomination. Children, adults, and everyone in between will adore this film for years to come. It’s easily the best movie Pixar has made, and that’s an awfully strong statement.

There Will be Blood

It is perhaps the rarest of treats to come to a movie theater and immediately understand that you are watching a new kind of movie. Something so inventive that you feel you are truly experiencing a new form of art. When the film was over, I felt compelled to watch the end credits, not to learn anything or because I was hoping for a blooper reel, but because I wanted to really take in and contemplate everything I’d just seen. I knew I had experienced greatness.

The homage to Kubrick is obvious. Between the eerily frightening score, the closeup shots of faces, the dehumanization theme, and that bowling alley at the end, there is no doubt that PT Anderson wanted us to make a connection. The only thing missing was a bathroom. Even when Plainview clubs Eli Sunday, it is reminiscent of the apes who wield bones at the outset of 2001.

There is plenty here left open to interpretation. Did Daniel really love HW at any point? I say no, but a case could be made either way. Was Plainview so ruthlessly focused on capital success because he felt removed from family, women and all other people? Or did he remove himself from all of those things in pursuit of capital success? Did Anderson mean this film as a condemnation of all religion or simply the grandiose charlatans of the world? Just what did Plainview mean by “I’m finished?” These and many other questions will be debated for years to come. Anderson wanted some ambiguity on some of these issues, and by leaving us to each determine the answer for ourselves, he has made his film that much stronger.

Obviously, Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance must be mentioned. It is the most dominating on-screen persona we have seen since Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs. It deserves to go down as one of the all-time classic performances and one of the most memorable characters in cinema history. Nobody else stood a chance at the Oscar this year.

My original OWR was “groundbreaking”, but I felt that wasn’t doing the film justice. It’s a bit of a pun, and though it is apt in that this story is a landmark one, it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. Daniel can simultaneously be viewed as complex and simple, but motivated solely by one thing either way. Whether you feel he truly loved HW or not. Whether you feel he was showing affection for “Henry” or not, what is clear is that there is only one motivation for Plainview: to have everything, and for everyone else to have nothing. He dislikes Eli from the start, but the fact that Eli has the attention and devotion of the people in the town is enough for Daniel to despise him more than anyone else he encounters. There Will be Blood currently resides at #35 all time on the IMDB, so it is justly being lauded and noticed. But in time, its status will only grow. When we look back at 2007 years from now, this will be the undoubted best film of the year. It is superior to its immensely strong brethren. I had to ask myself, could Kubrick have made this movie were he still around? My answer was “yeah... maybe... probably,” which is a compliment to both Kubrick and Anderson. I can't wait to see it again.

I should note that I have not seen every film of note from ’07. There are many more potentially great films for me to experience. So if anyone has thoughts on Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Atonement, La Vie En Rose, The Savages, Sweeny Todd, In the Valley of Elah, Taxi to the Dark Side, Charlie Wilson’s War, or, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, please leave your thoughts in the comment section. Or anything else I forgot! Dang, that’s a lot of movies. It’s the year that keeps on givin', folks.

OWR: Three Kings

78: Shrewd

Thursday, March 20, 2008

2007 Films in Review (Part 4 of 5)

Part 1 (w/ intro) here.
Part 2 here.
Part 3 here.
NOTE: Spoilers Abound

Knocked Up
It’s almost hard to remember quite how funny this movie was. What tends to come to mind are all the scenes with Seth Rogen’s slacker roomies, but they really were the side dishes in this one. The heart of the movie is Rogen’s relationship with Katherine Heigl and her sister’s family, and it’s where Judd Apatow has shown his finest chops. There are aspects that seem haphazardly made up, like the random trip to Vegas, but we accept them because the characters are dealing with real-life problems. Sure, they may be exaggerated caricatures, but they react to their predicaments in very human ways. While we don’t hear people quoting lines left and right, I have to imagine this movie will be remembered for years to come.

Eastern Promises
After last year’s A History of Violence, and now this, we may be seeing the next phase in the evolution of David Cronenberg. He’s gone from straight up horror to bizarre to dramatic. I can’t help but be curious about his upcoming work. In this one, he takes us deep into a world few of us know anything about. Mortensen’s performance is what stands out the most. In another year, he may have won the Oscar for Best Actor. The film tackles a big subject with a lot of implicit hierarchy going on behind the scenes, but, much like Cronenberg's last output, it feels small and intimate. There are really only four characters that matter here – five if you count the baby. Those that appear affable turn sinister, and by the end, everything we believed has been turned on its head. Despite Mortensen’s nomination, this will likely be the ’07 movie that people return to with surprise at how good it is. It slipped through the cracks to a degree, but is a tense story that really delivers.

Away From Her
What a patient, sad movie this is. It cuts right to the heart of what love is all about, or at least what it should be about. In her directorial debut, Sarah Polley does an excellent job throwing us right into the story. There’s no wasted time here. Julie Christie garnered much attention for her capable performance as an Alzheimer afflicted woman. But Gordon Pinset’s is even better, hitting all the right notes as the suffering husband who at times feels that he deserves to suffer. There have been several movies made about Alzheimer’s, but so far, this is the gold standard in terms of showing how it affects everyone involved. In sum, it’s a movie for anyone with even the most modest ability to sympathize, which is why we watch movies in the first place, right?

No Country for Old Men
This film was so close to being perfect. Immediately after watching it, I knew something was missing. I couldn’t place what it was. So I read the book. Many have said that it is a word-for-word retelling of the story. That is a true assessment, save for two things. 1) The book does give us more information about the demise of Llewellyn Moss. Perhaps a minor point, but one that bugged me in the theater nonetheless. 2) Tommy Lee Jones was miscast as Ed Tom Bell. I know that many will disagree with me on this, but hear me out. He walks the part to a degree, but there is a big problem here. Tommy Lee Jones is far too worldly a man to be playing Bell. The entire point of this story is that Bell believes himself to be a coward and finds that the world has passed him by. He’s a smart man, but when portrayed by a Harvard man, the epiphanies don’t play truthfully. Perhaps Jones is just too recognizable. Maybe it’s too hard to separate his face from Marshal Sam Gerard’s. The performance is well played, but Bell is a man who has intentionally avoided deep thought and introspection throughout his life, and is just now forced to examine himself in the face of a new, terrifying level of criminality. It’s hard to imagine that Jones, the way he portrays this character, has avoided all of that. I felt this notion when I left the theater and after reading the book, I understood it. The acting performances are excellent, and it’s a tense, entertaining, and incredibly rewatchable film – one that will be held up when people discuss the excellence of 2007 – and rightly so. But it just missed being what it could have been.

Part 5 here.