Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oscar Impressions

I was going to give a rundown on what I did and did not like about this year's Oscars telecast, but Holly pretty much hit on everything I was going to, and much more succinctly than I ever could. Check it out.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Wrestler

It's Oscar night, and I've only seen one of the Best Picture nominees (Milk). I had hoped to see more of the nominated films, but time and money didn't allow for it.

I did get to see The Wrestler last weekend, which was worth both the time and the money. It is a fantastic film, one of Darren Aronofsky's best, if not the best film he has made. All the hype you've heard about Mickey Rourke's performance is spot on. This is one of those rare occasions when a role and an actor are so perfectly suited for each other it is mesmerizing. He is the center of the film, appearing in practically every scene much like Daniel Day-Lewis in last year's Best Actor performance in There Will Be Blood (although the movies are completely different in scope). The movie is filtered through this man's eyes so completely, that when his heart breaks you can't help but feel it.

This being an Aronofsky movie, you should know that it isn't all happiness and sunshine. It does have a lot more heart than his previous films (with the exception of The Fountain, which is all heart). The movie is practically a study in world-weariness, but Aranofsky clearly has so much respect and compassion for the characters and the worlds they inhabit. This makes their suffering all the more tragic, because you really care so much about them. Even more so than a film like Requiem For A Dream, which is unrelenting in its punishment, but ultimately feels cold and slightly removed. The Wrestler grounds you in its world from the opening scene, because it is so stripped of the stylistic flourishes that Aronofsky is known for. It's hard to believe this is the same guy who invented the "hip-hop montage" as an editing transition. Nor does the SnorriCam make an appearance.

Also noteworthy are the performances of Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and Todd Barry. All of them do a great job playing characters who highlight, in one way or another, various frustrations Randy "The Ram" Robinson has with the way his life has turned out. They may also be the only way through which he can redeem himself.

I won't say too much else about the film, other than that I think it is fantastic. It could have been one of the Best Picture nominees, in my opinion. But I'm glad that Rourke is at least getting the recognition he deserves.

High And Dry

"We can't look each other in the face! You don't understand the humiliation of it - to be tricked out of the single assumption that makes our existence viable - that somebody is watching...The plot was two corpses gone before we caught sight of ourselves, stripped naked in the middle of nowhere and pouring ourselves down a bottomless well.

There we were - demented children mincing about in clothes that no one ever wore, speaking as no man ever spoke, swearing love in wigs and rhymed couplets, killing each other with wooden swords, hollow protestations of faith hurled after empty promises of vengeance - and every gesture, every pose, vanishing into the thin unpopulated air. We ransomed our dignity to the clouds, and the uncomprehending birds listened. Don't you see?! We're actors - we're the opposite of people! Think, in your head, now, think of the most... private... secret... intimate thing you have ever done secure in the knowledge of its privacy. Are you thinking of it? Well, I saw you do it!

We're actors...we pledged our identities, secure in the conventions of our trade, that someone would be watching. And then, gradually, no one was. We were caught, high and dry. It was not until the murderer's long soliloquy that we were able to look around; frozen as we were in profile, our eyes searched you out, first confidently, then hesitantly, then desperately as each patch of turf, each log, every exposed corner in every direction proved uninhabited, and all the while the murderous King addressed the horizon with his dreary interminable guilt...Our heads began to move, wary as lizards, the corpse of unsullied Rosalinda peeped through his fingers, and the King faltered. Even then, habit and a stubborn trust that our audience spied upon us from behind the nearest bush, forced our bodies to blunder on long after they had emptied of meaning, until like runaway carts they dragged to a halt. No one came forward. No one shouted at us. The silence was unbreakable, it imposed itself upon us; it was obscene. We took off our crowns and swords and cloth of gold and moved silent on the road to Elsinore."

- Tom Stoppard
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

Friday, February 20, 2009

Codebreaker - "Fire"

I'm on a tilt-shift kick! The effect is used wonderfully in this video. The song has a cool vibe, too.

[via Boing Boing]

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tilt-Shift Dollhouse

I watched the first episode of Joss Whedon's new show, Dollhouse. It was a good pilot, and I was delighted to see some brief tilt-shift shots in the opening credits. I think this is the first mainstream use of tilt-shift.

Whistling Languages

This community in the Canary Islands uses a form of communication made up entirely of whistling. I just found out about it in an episode of Bizarre Foods. My mind is blown.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

TMBG - Other Father Song

In my review for Coraline I was overwhelmed by the amount of good things to talk about. I completely forgot about the song They Might Be Giants contributed. I recognized the voice of John Linnell coming out of the Other Father as he sang, but didn't remember it until I got the band's latest email.

Here's the scene:

Frebruary: A Month Of Terrifying Birth Stories

It's been a particularly strange winter. The days alternate between beautiful, summery mid-70's, and bitterly cold and nasty. Occasionally there's a feral howl outside my window that I once assumed to be the wind, but I now recognize as the forlorn braying of the Babies Of The Damned.

Bristol Palin, Alfie Patton, and Nadya Suleman form a trifecta of terrifying parents (scarents?) that should serve as a grim reminder of what happens when ignorance and hormones collide.

Lil' Palin is probably the most tragic of all the stories simply for the fact that she is clearly the victim of her parents' failed ideologies. You need no further proof than her statement in a recent interview that "everyone should be abstinent or whatever, but it’s not realistic at all." The first half of that sentence is just a pre-programmed regurgitation of the same old line that social conservatives (like her parents) have been shoving down her throat. She completely dismisses this with "or whatever" (since deep down she knows it isn't true), and then finishes by saying the complete opposite. It's a shame it took having a baby to make her realize what most of us have known from the outset: abstinence education fails. It's an oxymoron, a lack of information disguised as education. Also, Bristol has unfortunately continued the family tradition of naming her children like one would name a puppy, but that's just a matter of poor taste and there's nothing to be done about it.

And what do we make of Mr. Patton, the 13-year-old baby daddy? Honestly, the only thing that makes this story noteworthy is the fact that Alfie only looks to be about eight or nine. Beyond that, it's just another teen pregnancy story. I only mention it because, well look at him:

That gives me the jibblies.

Finally, there is Nadya. Anglina Jolie-obsessed, baby crazy, and possibly just regular crazy mother of fucktuplets octuplets. This story has been done to death by now, and I don't really have anything to add except: *Bluuuurrrrggghh*.

So tell me: are we heading towards an Idiocracy?

Watch more SpikedHumor videos on AOL Video

Nikki Giovanni

The most recent episode of Bill Moyers Journal featured an interview with one of my favorite poets, Nikki Giovanni. Listening to her talk about life and read her poems was pure joy, and had me smiling as I drove down the road. Her poems always tend to put me in a good mood.

Here is "Everything Good Is Simple":
Everything good is simple: a soft boiled egg...toast fresh from the oven with a pat of butter swimming in the center...steam off a cup of black coffee... John Coltrane bringing me 'Violets for My Furs'

Most simple things are good: Lines on a yellow legal pad... dimples defining a smile...a square of gray cashmere that can be a scarf... Miles Davis 'Kind of Blue'

Some things clear are complicated: believing in a religion...trying to be a good person...getting rid of folk who depress you...Horace Silver 'Blowing the Blues Away'

Complicated things can be clear: Dvorak's 'New World' Symphony... Alvin Ailey's 'Revelations'... Mae Jemison's riding in space... Mingus 'Live at Carnegie Hall'

All things good are good: poetry... patience... a ripe tomato on the vine... a bat in flight... the new in your arms... things like that

And here is the poem that introduced me (and probably many others) to her poetry, "Ego Tripping", set to music by Blackalicious:

She pulled me out of a bad mood. Maybe she'll do the same for you.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New Simpsons Titles

So The Simpsons is now being broadcast in HD, and they've completely redone the opening credits, which have remained unchanged for nearly twenty years:

I'm glad they kept it so close to the original. Now there are some fun new gags to pick out, and for Tivo users to pause on. I love the box of Mr. Sparkle in the check out line.

What do the rest of you Simpsons devotees think?

[via Laughing Squid]

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Noby Noby Boy

The following is actual footage from a real video game:

The fact that it is made by the creator of Katamari Damacy is the only reason I really want to play it. Unfortunately it's only on the PS3. Oh well.

Friday, February 13, 2009

eMusic downloads of February:

1. Antony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light
2. Bon Iver - Blood Bank
3. Earth - The Bees Made Honey In The Lions Skull
4. I Heart Lung - Interoceans
5. Juana Molina - Un Dia
6. Magnet - The Wicker Man

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Coraline is easily the best stop-motion animated film since The Nightmare Before Christmas. Not that there have been a great many others in between, but it's still a damn good movie. The precision in animation and storytelling is at a Pixar level of goodness. Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman make fine collaborators, and I only hope that more adaptations come about in the future. I'd love to see what a Sandman story looks like in this medium!

One of my favorite things about Coraline is that it is a genuinely creepy kids movie. All of my favorite movies growing up were not afraid to actually be scary. Selick does a wonderful job as a director of gradually ramping up the creepiness until the whole fantasy world is just one big nightmare.

I haven't read the book, so I can't say how close of an adaptation this is, but it definitely has Neil Gaiman's fingerprint. He has such a clever way of using familiar elements from classic stories, and giving them just enough of a twist that they become something new and exciting.

In addition to being a very entertaining film, Coraline is also the best 3D movie I've seen since this new digital 3D technology was introduced. It isn't overly gaggy (*ahem*, Beowulf), and it uses space in very clever ways. Gaiman and Selick recently did a fantastic interview on The Sound Of Young America. Selick describes how sets were built with forced perspective in Coraline's "real world" to give them a flatter look. This kind of attention to detail makes the movie a complete joy to watch in 3D.

I really enjoyed everything about Coraline from the characters, to the story, to its beautifully haunting soundtrack. This could easily give Pixar a run for their money in 2009. Up better be fantastic, is all I'm saying.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


A couple of surprising tidbits have come out about future Wii games that I'm pretty excited about.

The first is that EA is making a Dead Space game for the Wii. This is surprising because Dead Space is a fairly mature title, and these aren't always considered prime Wii material. The 360 and PS3 versions were well reviewed. Whether the Wii version is a port of that game, or something completely built from the ground up, I hope they put the same level of quality into it. We're already getting a stripped down version of Dead Rising (completely unrelated), so I hope Dead Space isn't too toned down on content.

The other thing that has me a little giddy is this announcement that the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings game will contain a bonus game: Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Anyone who played PC games back in the day will remember Fate of Atlantis as one of Lucasarts' classic point-and-click adventure games.

I've been calling for more point-and-click Wii action for a while. The recent Sam & Max game was pretty good (though not nearly as good as the Lucasarts original), and Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People is a must for Homestar Runner fans.

Hopefully Staff of Kings with be worth purchasing so I can enjoy Fate of Atlantis all over again. And if the port is well received I hope Lucasarts considers bringing some more of their old adventure games to the Wii, either as a standalone collection or on the Virtual Console. Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Sam & Max Hit The Road, Grim Fandango, and The Digg are all games I wouldn't mind playing again. Maniac Mansion was even on the NES, so that would be perfect for a Virtual Console release.