Saturday, January 30, 2010

Well, fine!

So Blogger wouldn't work for me for like 5 days.

I had a bunch of ideas that I thought I might write about. Not that I would have actually gone through with those ideas, but you know.

Needless to say, it being down killed all enthusiasm I might have had.

...

I hate looking for restaurants, by the way.

Especially for 8 people with all varied taste.

This is why all my paragraphs are one sentence.

Cause I'm spending all my time trying to figure out what to do for dinner for my family.

Eh.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dilemma...

(Note: wrote this like two weeks ago, when the NFC championship game was still fresh. Then Blogger crapped out on me and I never posted it. But since the game is tomorrow, here it is! Hooray!)

I really don't want to keep writing about football, since it's already depressing and such, but... I sat around doing nothing today. I think this is because the Vikings crushed my will to live.

But I have a problem relating to the Super Bowl: who to cheer for.

Of course, the whole "who's actually going to win" thing is a lot less interesting (Colts in a landslide--they should have gone undefeated and the Saints... well, THE SAINTS WOULDN'T BE THERE IF THE VIKINGS (turn the ball over incessantly/get lousy breaks and calls in overtime/weren't the Vikings and had any sort of luck whatsoever)), but there's a problem in terms of who I'd actually like to win. Let's look at each team:

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS:

Pros:
-Well, none really.

Cons:
-They're boring as crap. For a number of reasons. One, they're too good, and every game there's this air of inevitability as they efficiently march down the field to rack up points. Two, they don't seem to enjoy themselves at all. After the Jets game, no one was really celebrating--Manning just marched out for the usual postgame hugs, was handed a championship hat but wasn't bothered enough to put it on his head. Of course, this might stem from the fact that they probably have expected to be here from day one, but still. Boring.

-I HATE PEYTON MANNING.

Well, more like a fairly moderate dislike. I hated him when he was battling Brady in the playoffs constantly cause I couldn't stand how he'd seem to get pissed at everyone else for his own failures (which meant that apparently I was on the side of evil and sided with the Patriots, but oh well.) Now he's just too good that I can't really hate him because he doesn't really do anything wrong... but he's still kind of boring on the field. I'd rather have Eli for the red-headed stepchild aspect and for the whole kind-of-sucks-yet-has-a-Super-Bowl-ring-anyway factor.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS:

Pros:
-Well... they haven't won a Super Bowl. And if the Vikings are going to force me to be miserable, I'd rather have everyone focus on how miserable I am... so embattled teams have to win it whenever possible.

Cons:
-I really hope to not hear about Katrina during the pregame. Does that make me a bad person?

-THEY BEAT MY TEAM AND THEY SHOULDN'T BE PLAYING.

That's pretty much the biggest reason against the Saints. Also...

-They were kind of dirty. I understand wanting to knock around Favre because he's old and more liable to choke if he's hurting a bit, but some of the hits seemed AWFULLY suspect, as if they were trying to actually hurt him rather than just playing/hitting hard. And all the roughing the passer flags on them were terribly deserved, for the record.

VERDICT:

I'm going to wear whatever Vikings crap I can find and cheer for them in the game they WOULD BE PLAYING IN IF THE FOOTBALL GODS DIDN'T HATE MINNESOTA.


Actually, I'm just going to cheer for the Saints, cause they haven't won a Super Bowl yet. But they're gonna get crushed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some good things:

-Just watched Shoot Em Up with my brothers.

What a ridiculous, glorious movie. Kind of like Army Of Darkness in how it keeps trying to amp up the ridiculous meter, and for the most part it succeeds. But I think it's played more straightly, which makes it all the more ridiculous/awesome. Plus, the first kill involves a carrot. This was probably the best thing to cheer me up post-heartbreak.

-So I'm big on the Oscars. And by big I mean get upset with it every year (except 2007). So the fact that Avatar was looking to sweep everything in sight was kind of annoying to me, since... you know, it was kind of lame. But the PGA (a precursor to the Oscars) had Avatar as the large favorite, only to get upset by The Hurt Locker. Which is pretty cool.

Of course, I'd have rather seen Inglourious Basterds pull off the upset, or Fantastic Mr. Fox/A Serious Man get recognition... plus, there's no way that a movie that made pretty much nothing at the box office would beat the highest grossing film at the Oscars (especially after they tried to make the damn show much more mainstream), but still. Cool news.

-Plus, the Vikings were going to get crushed by the Colts anyway, in route to the record breaking 5th Super Bowl loss. Although I'm not so sure if I would have preferred that. For one thing, I haven't seen a Minnesota team make the championship ever (cause really, I wasn't paying attention to the Twins as a 4 year old in 1991). And if we were to lose the Super Bowl, then maybe the rest of the worldd would have noticed how miserable it is to be a Vikings fan in the first place.

That's all I'm really looking for. A bit of sympathy.

A lot of sympathy, really. The game f***ing sucked. We got screwed on the last drive by the refs, we got screwed by the crappy overtime rules, we got screwed by our stupid playcalling and turnovers... GAH. WE SHOULD BE IN THE SUPER BOWL RIGHT NOW.

HARTLEY. YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO CHOKE. WHY WERE YOU THE ONLY KICKER TO NOT MISS A FIELD GOAL DURING THE PLAYOFFS.

Right. Because he was kicking against the Vikings.

And we're not huge fans of "good fortune".

-My girlfriend drew this for me. It pretty much sums up the hopelessness of our team pretty effectively.


Still I'll get high hopes next year... and the year after that...

...

1) 470 yards to what... 270?

2) I figured that it would come down to it... Favre costing the game for the Vikings in the playoffs. Not that it was entirely his fault... but that last interception was just stupid, stupid, stupid. If he's retiring, and I doubt he is since I'm assuming this will leave a terrible taste in his mouth, then it's fitting to have him go out with an INT.

3) Adrian Peterson... you have to hang on to the ball. Please, it's killing everyone and it becomes contagious for the rest of the team, apparently.

4) WE SHOULD HAVE WON THAT GAME. OUR DEFENSE WAS STOPPING THE SAINTS, THE VIKINGS WERE MOVING THE BALL... THE ONLY REASON THAT WE LOST IS BECAUSE GOD HATES ME AND GOD HATES THE VIKINGS.


...

Can't wait two years from now, when we go into the NFC championship again only to get crushed 40 points.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

4

Week 17, vs. the 3-12 Cardinals:
Oh, so this isn't really a playoff moment, but it's here because we should have made the playoffs. But we didn't.

Why?

Because of Nate Poole.

*sigh*

It's not like we were really deserving of a playoff spot anyway. We started out 6-0 and was looking to be in prime position to contend for the NFC Championship, but then we started losing. Not just that, but losing to TERRIBLE teams. The Cardinals were also terrible. We had no reason why we should have lost that game.

I remember the game pretty vividly because it was right off the heels of Christmas. My aunt got me this Vikings jacket that the team was wearing on the sidelines for that year. It was pretty cool. And warm. You know... I liked it. I decided that in honor of the Vikings winning 17-6 at the time, I'd put it on as a way to commemorate our playoff berth after a topsy turvy season that would hopefully stable out in the playoffs and lead to a Super Bowl berth.

Then the Cardinals scored with less than 2 minutes left in the game.

I'm watching it on YouTube right now.

They recovered the onside kick. Mike Tice looked moronic as he searched for answers.

Pass interference call that gives the Cardinals prime position.

They get within the 15 with a pass to Poole. Run to the 10 makes it 2nd&5 with 50 seconds left.

BUT WAIT...! Kevin Williams with a sack! Time out with 31 seconds left!

ANOTHER SACK! Time is ticking, surely they wouldn't be able to regroup and get into the endzone, right? This is the Cardinals we're talking about, right?

...

Well of course they scored.

I didn't wear that jacket for 5 years about, associating it with bad luck, bad memories, and crappy Vikings decision making. I think I broke it out a little last year, trying to "reverse the curse", but I probably wore it the last week and then the first round of the playoffs... we won the game to get into the playoffs, but not the playoff game.

I might have it sitting in my apartment somewhere. I'm probably not going to break it out tomorrow.

Viking moments #3:

2000 NFC Championship game:

1) We were favored.

2) The Giants... didn't look all that impressive.

3) The fact that they had home field advantage was more due to the fact that we lost our last 3 games than anything else.

4) We weren't looking all that impressive, sure... but Culpepper took over the reins at QB and was doing a nice job in his (essentially) first year. Moss was still fine (we still had Carter too, I believe), Robert Smith was having a career year... and despite losing our last 3 to close the regular season, we could hang with anyone.

5) Look, we were getting close every year. Eventually... one of these years, we had to break through and get to the Super Bowl, right? And the Giants... well, they weren't striking fear into anyone, really... so why worry too much about them? We could surely win, right?

...

Giants score on the first drive. We return the kickoff... and fumble. They get the ball at our 20. They score. We give up.

41-0.

I hate life.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Up In The Air

The whole "10 best picture nominees" shindig that the Academy has going on this year seems like a nice idea the more I think about it. Not just the fact that it's opening up spots for films that aren't usually "Academy friendly", but we're getting a nice slate of diverse movies that we wouldn't see normally from the Academy.

So yeah. Up In The Air? Give it one of those 10 nominations! It's nice, mainstream, palatable, adult, humorous. It hinges its success on the charisma of its lead actors who thankfully step up their games and deliver warm performances (I mean, it's not the most amazing acting in the world... George Clooney plays George Clooney, but his charm takes him far in this role). It takes the standard "business-minded man has a change of heart and embraces family" plot and... while not really putting a new spin on it, it tells that story well at the very least. So go for it, Academy. Give it 7 nominations, including best picture... maybe you don't want to let it win anything, but you know... honor it in some way.

Of course, Up In The Air is hanging in there as one of the "favorites" to win it all (until Avatar picks up a crapload of steam and wins everything), and this is probably due to one thing: "social relevance."

See, George Clooney's character fires people for a living. OH MAN OH MAN OUR COUNTRY IS ECONOMICALLY DEPRESSED AT THE MOMENT SO THIS MOVIE IS GOING TO BE A CAPSULE OF OUR CHALLENGED TIMES AND MEAN SO MUCH TO SO MANY PEOPLE. IT'S GOING TO TELL A STORY OF A SELF-CENTERED MAN WHO SUDDENLY REALIZES THAT *HEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*, THESE PEOPLE ARE HARD WORKING AMERICANS AND THAT HE CANNOT STAND TO SEE SO MANY PEOPLE LOSE THEIR LIVELIHOOD.

That's sort of what a lot of the reviews I've read sound like to me. Of course, the movie is about an insular man who decides mid-flight (pun!) that the path he's taking is ultimately a hollow one. The whole downsizing stuff? More of a way to capture his isolation and detachment than "saying" anything about the current economic climate.

At least that's what it seems like to me. I think I totally read the film differently than everyone else.

Of course, Jason Reitman doesn't want to run the risk of not seeming to comment on the economic situation, cause... you know, that'd mean he's just telling a light Hollywood comedy. So he does stuff like hires recently let go people to act as the "fired" people and let them speak monologues about how losing your job sucks and stuff. It's actually kind of really contrived and annoys me even while thinking about it, but you know... WHATEVER.

The main storyline is that this gal named Natalie, played by Anna Kendrick, introduces "web firing" (or whatever it's called) which would make Clooney's job as a guy who flies around the country to fire people for bosses without the balls to do it themselves pretty much irrelevant. Clooney objects to this, saying that there's an art to consoling the recently let go and that introducing a way to do it via web cam would make the fired even more at loss. Really, he just would rather be flying around everywhere than grounded, but we'll skip that for now.

Essentially, what George Clooney does is BS. He consoles the fired into thinking that the layoff will open up a world of opportunities to them when really they've been fired... and it sucks. Sure, they might land on their feet eventually, but most are going to struggle. That's just the way it is. So Clooney essentially consoles them into thinking that he is going to be there for them when really he'll never see them again.

And so Natalie's new technology is seen as this super bad and soulless concept that'll drive people further into despair. But I can't help but thinking... is it really *that* bad? If I got fired by some outside group because my boss was too weak to do it on their own... would I rather have some guy tell me everything is going to be all right, or some person on the Internet completely failing to make me feel any better because my boss was gutless enough to hire someone to fire me OVER THE INTERNET? I'd honestly take the second option. Sure, it's gross and alienating, but I'd rather have BS plainly labeled "BS", you know? Plus, a gutless boss doesn't deserve a dignified way of getting rid of employees. I'd rather leave work knowing my boss is a chickens*** rather than thinking "oh hey! I can do whatever I want now! Getting fired might be the best thing to happen to me yet!" Perhaps I'd be alone in this, but there you go.

I get that Clooney might be trying to save what little dignity might be left in the situation, but one, I'm not really sure if it's worth saving, and two, Clooney seems so isolated that his desires to "retain this dignity" is just his way of trying to maintain his own lifestyle.

Complicating matters is the fact that Natalie is--to me--the warmest, most relatable character in the movie. She seems like the annoying young corporate do-gooder at first, but then some key facts emerge. Like the fact she took the job because her boyfriend was going to live in the area. And the fact that, once on the road with Clooney, she discovers that she kind of hates her job. Sure, it's probably due to the fact that she hasn't mastered the slick BS that Clooney has refined, but a key scene in which she fires someone with Clooney watching leaves her visibly shaken while Clooney merely shrugs it off.

But that really isn't what the movie is about. It's about Clooney realizing his goal of get 10 million miles in the air is kind of a shallow goal, and then deciding to go after something that makes him happy (i.e. family, a woman). It's nothing new or anything, but it's decently executed. My problem is that the woman Clooney chases after (played by Vera Farmiga) turns out to be SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER an unreasonably cruel person, especially after going to a family get-together with Clooney--at which point I would have brought up the fact that... you know, I'm married. But I guess they couldn't resist having the big reveal. So it comes as little surprise that after he gets burned so bad, he retreats back into his own little lifestyle since it's what he knows best, but he also retreats back into it knowing the hollow feeling it provides SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER.

I do think that Clooney's transformation is indeed aided by Kendrick, though, as he sees this gal who seems to be an even worse type of corporate stooge turn out to be an idealistic young gal who seems to be chasing after love and happiness more than a good job. So really, I don't know. Maybe I just liked her more because she's a young rapscallion like I am. I'm probably wrong and a lot of other people are right. I've spent enough time thinking about this movie. End of post.

Part 2:

1999: NFC Divisional Round: vs. St. Louis.

I feel like this is sort of an underrated moment in terms of Vikings postseason failures, because it just so happens to be smack dab in between two of the biggest choke jobs in the history of sports in the 98 and 2000 championship games. But I thought that we could really win this game. We started off the year 2-4, made a change at QB to Jeff George, and he of all people turned the year around and we finished 8-2. The offense pretty much stayed the same... only instead of bombs to Moss and Carter, George was throwing lasers to Moss and Carter.

Plus, what did the fanbase learn last year? That the team that is favored to win the Super Bowl... doesn't always make the Super Bowl. PLUS, we had a dome team come in and defeat us the previous year, and what better team to beat the Rams than a fellow dome team relying on the same speed that the turf gives them? SURELY, THE FOOTBALL GODS WOULD SMILE UPON US AND DELIVER A GIFT AFTER LETTING US DOWN LAST YEAR. SURELY THEY WOULD LET US WIN IN THE SAME VEIN THAT THE FALCONS WON LAST YEAR, JUST TO MAKE THE MOMENT MUCH SWEETER. OK, so I was probably talking myself into thinking the Vikings could do it, but still... it sounded reasonable right?

And it seemed like we actually *could* win the game, as we jumped out to a 17-14 lead at halftime. We didn't seem to be playing *great* (a few turnovers swung the game a little in our favor), but we were hanging in there... and winning at that. So we had a little bit of momentum on our side going into the 2nd half.

First play, St. Louis returns it for a TD. 21-17. Vikings punt. St. Louis scores. 28-17. Vikings punt. 35-17 St. Louis a few plays later. Soon enough, it was 49-17 Rams. Well crap.

Of course, we ended up tacking an extra 20 points on there to make it seem like we didn't just completely lay down in the second half, but the Rams weren't even trying. I kind of liked the Rams too, and I liked how Warner rose from pretty much nowhere to take the team to the top of the conference. After they shellacked us, though, I *hated* them. They probably were my second or third least favorite team for a good three years or so (behind, obviously, the Packers and possibly then-division-rivals the Buccanneers.)

Of course, we laid a much bigger egg the next year, but for some reason this loss always stung me just about as hard as the 2000 NFC championship one. Mainly because it taught me one thing: the football gods hate the Vikings. And that the loss to the Falcons last year wasn't an aberration... it was the motif for the entire existence of the franchise.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Great moments in Viking playoff history

OK. So over the course of this week, I might post a few of these great moments in preparation for the game against the Saints. The purpose of posting these are to make you feel pity for me and thus cheer for the Vikings this weekend... and then if they don't win, you will feel it in your heart to console me. And pay off my rent to heal the wounds a little faster.

1998 NFC Championship Game:
This was my first year as a *big* Vikings fan. I followed football and all, watched the games that weren't blacked out (we had really crappy owners back then...) and watched as we fought towards the playoffs, only to get the crap kicked out of us (our comeback against the Giants in 1997 in the playoffs really got me into the game and such.)

The main thing that changed that made me into a huge fan was that we drafted Randy Moss in the 1st round of the 1998 draft.

I saw him play a game as a college athlete and was pretty much bowled over. I heard he wasn't the greatest person on earth, but he could play. Anyway, we only had the 21st pick, so we had no chance at all at getting him. Except he kept dropping. And dropping. Until all of a sudden, he was in our hands. It was glorious.

And then we had the best season we've ever had. Our offense was pretty much unstoppable, we had the best receiving corps in the league, Robert Smith had one of his better seasons, and then Randall Cunningham suddenly reemerged as a potent QB, and we couldn't be stopped. We COULDN'T BE STOPPED. Even our f'n kicker Gary Anderson didn't miss a single field goal all year. No one on our team could be stopped.

I mean, we lost once in the regular season, but that was more of a "well, we were going to lay an egg once during the season" than anything *really* to worry about. Every other game was pretty much in our hands, with maybe only two or so actually coming down to within 10 points. Every other game we just rolled over our opponents. It was beautiful. This was our season.

So the Vikings probably took the Falcons a little too lightly. Which probably wasn't the smartest idea, since they were 14-2 and nothing to sneeze at. But still... Moss. Carter. Cunningham. WE COULDN'T BE STOPPED. JOHN ELWAY AND TERRELL DAVIS WERE GOING TO BE QUIVERING IN THEIR BOOTS.

Cunningham fumbled the ball before the 1st half, Falcons score... cutting our lead from 20-7 to 20-14. Gary Anderson misses his first field goal of the season with 2 minutes left in the game that would have put the game away. Falcons score. Denny Green sits on the ball despite having PERHAPS THE BEST OFFENSE OF ALL TIME. We lose.

Now, I'm just a 11 year old kid. I don't really know heartbreak all that well. I mean, I know losing... I followed the Timberwolves and they were losing all the time, but that was to be expected, cause they were terrible. The Vikings... well, they were the best team in the league. They just were, and there was really no way we should have lost. I am 11 years old. I can't really understand this well.

So I cried. Will probably be the only time in the history of ever that I cry over the result of a football game, but it's what I did. I cried because this illusion I had of this unstoppable force was just destroyed, and the world had just shown me its first glimpse of how cruel life could be.

Well, maybe not. But I'm 11 years old... and one of my favorite teams is playing unbelievably well... and then it all comes apart.

Over the years I regretted shedding tears over a stupid football game (cause the Vikings would make losing painfully pretty much commonplace that sacrificing tears would be giving *way* too much for such an aggravating team), but honestly if I were the age I am right now and the Vikings had an amazing season like they did only to lose it like they did... I'd probably cry still.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Vikings game just ended.

That was a beautiful game.

All along I was hoping that we'd end up playing against the Cowboys, because beating an Eagles team you badly wanted to exact revenge does not = hottest team in playoffs. The team still had Romo at QB and Phillips as coach...

Not that Romo had a lot of support from his offensive line, but still... 3 fumbles (2 lost) and an INT = not good at all. He had pretty much no big plays... which would I hope be an indication of a great defensive performance, but is probably also owes a little bit to the fact that... you know, Romo kind of sucks.

Also, that last touchdown was totally necessary. You have an opposing team who had the media fellate all week long, so you score the touchdown to make the media look even more stupid. Also it sends a message that we are not to be taken lightly. Besides, everyone else would have done it after being given no chance all week long. That was an FU play, and it was glorious.

So I have no idea if we're going to be the Saints next Sunday, but I think we have a puncher's chance to pull off the upset. Our D is playing well... probably not nearly well enough to stop the Saints O, but I think we can keep up with them, at least. Probably will come down to whether or not we can take the wind out of the Saints' (and their fans') sails. Also, if no one gives us a chance during the week, I think we have more of a chance. That whole "nobody believed in us" card is pretty powerful.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I JUST BATTLED A BAT

TO THE DEATH.

Well, as in that I think that I killed the bat. On accident. When I grabbed it with my T-shirt and then threw him outside, where he proceeded to plop down.

Also, no one ever teaches you these things when you're growing up. I mean, someone out there must have some sort of seminar on how to get a bat the hell out of your apartment, but they're not really doing a good job of marketing it. Cause I would have liked to have had a copy nearby just a while ago.

So my attempts at battling the bat were pathetic. I took a broom because--well, it seemed like that's what anyone would use to fend off a bat. It didn't really get him outside like I had hoped. Instead it just flew around for 5 minutes. Then it crashed into the window, so I grabbed the T-shirt it was lying on when I found it out of the corner of my eye, grabbed the little bugger, walked out my apartment door and then out the main door.

It was kind of funny, because I let the door shut on me, so I couldn't get back in.

This was the first time I've ever been locked out, and I think I have a good excuse... I mean, I was fighting a friggin' bat, but I should probably never ever step outside without keys, cell phones, and shoes ever again.

Not that it was that cold out, but it's the f'n winter, so shoes would be nice.

I thought I was going to freeze or something since no one would be up at 2 AM, but fortunately I noticed that my neighbor's lights were on (which was weird, since no one was living there last I checked). So I got to meet my neighbor that way. Which is cool, I suppose.

Basically, all of this is to say that I'm probably not going to sleep much tonight, and that I have a meeting at work at 9 AM tomorrow and I'm probably screwed.

Review: The Invention of Lying

I kind of had large hopes for this one. I mean, the press wasn't terribly glowing, plus there wasn't anyone who was running out and claiming it to be the most brilliant comedy to be made since... whenever. But still... it had a cool premise, and Ricky Gervais isn't the worst person in the world. So what could go wrong?

Well... the premise gets about as much mileage as it can before the film shifts gears, so the fact that the film sort of disappointed can't be pinned on that. Indeed, the first 10-20 minutes are probably the funniest scenes in the movie, pretty much because everyone dishes out all sorts of nastiness towards Gervais' way, who plays off it like a defeated man doomed to a sad existence. Also, the advertisements for soda products that pop up are pretty much the exact type of advertisements that would get me to purchase their products (so suck on that, marketers).

It isn't that anyone is particularly bad in the thing... in fact, everyone's pretty solid, and the film as a whole is helped by the fact that a bunch of people make random cameos in the film.

It's not that the film doesn't really have anything to say. On the contrary, it kind of argues that lying adds color and depth to the world, and a society where we only speak the truth would be hopelessly practical and cruel. It's not the most earth-shaking argument, but you know... *shrugs*

It's not even that the foray into a critique on religion is mishandled or anything. I thought it was decently done, you know... I mean, there's pretty much no room for debate that the critique comes down on the atheism side. But the birth of religion was conceived after Gervais was watching a loved one die, and couldn't stand to see that person suffering, so it's not like it's trying to belittle people of faith or anything (though I would imagine a lot of people getting upset over it anyway).

The problem with the movie is this: the tone just shifts so radically that it can't possibly recover.

So Jennifer Garner is in the movie, right? It's reasonable to assume that she will then be the romantic interest in the film, right? Which is all cool and everything, but the problem is that the film goes from religious satire to romantic comedy...

Umm, what?

First off, Gervais' character is the one that tells the world about this guy called God, and thus he becomes a very well known figure. So of course, he's walking around town lamenting over the fact that Jennifer Garner won't be with him... AND PEOPLE AREN'T TOTALLY FLOCKING AROUND HIM. I mean, this is a guy that essentially changes what everyone has known for good, right? Wouldn't everyone have questions for him? Wouldn't Gervais himself obsess over the fact that he has just changed everything, and do all in his power to either rectify the situation or make the whole religion thing work for everyone? Well of course not. Because Jennifer Garner won't sleep with him. Perfectly reasonable.

Also, once you've brought the whole God thing into the equation... you really can't go back. I mean, it's just too weighty to just essentially drop in favor of a boring romance. So of course the romantic plot feels even more slight and inessential, and that's what you get to watch for the last 30 minutes.

It doesn't help that it's also not particularly humorous.

So what happened? Maybe they didn't know where to go after bringing God in. Maybe they couldn't think of anything that wouldn't offend a large part of America. Maybe they thought the schtick wore *too* thin. But I think there could have been a different direction it could have gone other than the mopey, depressed "Gervais is in love but won't get the girl because she favors genetics over whatever Gervais has to offer". Something more absurd, perhaps. Gervais worked in a film company... they could have developed that a little more. As it stood, the film company just had a guy telling historical stories before Gervais completely made up a plot... perhaps they could have Gervais reinvent the film industry a little more... comment on the escapism of Hollywood and how it might be needed or something stupid like that. I don't know.

Oh well. It was an interesting failure, I suppose. One that is an enjoyable watch. Fun, not terribly brilliant, and ultimately disappointing given the premise and the people involved.

Now if you' excuse me, I have to go wake up at 7 now (meaning, I'll be up another 2 hours doing stuff I didn't get the chance to do while writing this)

RATING:

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Monday, January 11, 2010

The Hurt Locker

If this thing is going to win the Best Picture award in a month or two, then I'm all for it.

Of course, that's because its main competition is Avatar and Up In The Air, the latter I haven't seen, and the former I'm not particularly crazy about. I'd be all up for an Inglourious Basterds win, but that's not going to happen, so forget about that.

At the same time, I can't really decide whether this is an amazing work, with tense action at its best... or if it's just, you know, impressive.

The movie doesn't really have the most developed of plots. The gist of it is that a bomb diffusion unit has about 40 days left in their tour of Iraq, and a wild and charismatic soldier becomes their new leader and immediately starts inserting them into unnecessarily risky situations. And that's about it. I mean, I wasn't expecting it to be story driven or anything, but I also kind of wanted more... at some point I began to lose interest right about when it went from "action sequences about dude putting his crew at risk" to "action sequences about the psychological mindset of soldiers". Not that the execution of the latter fell *completely* flat, it's just that grim, realistic sequences after grim, realistic sequences begin to take its toll over the course of an 130 minute film.

But hey, those sequences? Pretty f'n impressive. I forget the name of the character played by Jeremy Renner (who's pretty amazing in this, as is Anthony Mackie as the soldier who objects most vehemently to Renner's antics... the other guy was kind of annoying, but oh well), but he makes it all work. I mean, you know that when they go to disable a bomb, that they're not going to get blown into pieces or anything, but watching Renner carefully tiptoe the line between recklessness and skill keeps you riveted nonetheless.

Another thing going for it is how refreshingly apolitical it seems. Of course, it doesn't particularly make war look terribly great and smashing and crap, but it's not hitting you over the head with any sort of "give peace a chance, Americans learn to love the Iraqis" message either. You're most decidedly supposed to cheer for the Americans here. Which might just be because you're watching a film where they're the main characters, but also because the film depicts the enemy as this unpredictable force that might come at any angle, meaning that any random person on the street just *might* be who you're up against.

And as I said before, the film takes a turn around the middle into an examination of the psychological impact of war on its participants. The quote at the beginning of the film harps on a bit that states that "war is a drug," which I guess might be true. I sort of took it more as people straddling the precipice of life and death, and often being the deciding factor in the lives of countless people, and how the absolute finality of these situations makes everything seem pointless (spoiler: hence, at the end of the film, the reason Renner can't choose a cereal: there are no consequences in picking between Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes). I sort of felt like the film was reaching at points with its honing in on that "war=drug" slant by making Renner begin to harbor doubts about his adrenaline seeking ways, but not to the point of distraction.

Overall, it's a solid war flick, one that makes for gripping, realistic suspense by focusing in on the terror of what one wrong move might bring. Perhaps I'm not buying it as "best movie of the year" as I've seen plenty of other scribes deem it, but you know. Whatever.

ALSO: I haven't been following the Oscar season as much as I have the past few years, but here's what I'd like to see:

-Apparently it's between The Hurt Locker, Avatar and Up In The Air for Best Picture. Anything but Avatar.
-I'd like to see a few more acting nominations for Inglourious Basterds than just Christoph Waltz (who should win, for the record). Like Melanie Laurent in the Best Actress category (cause I don't want to see any of the films the leading contenders are in, honestly.)
-Fantastic Mr. Fox WINNING Best Animated Feature. Award Up the Best Pic nomination for Pixar's continued quality, award Fox the Best Animated Feature for being the best. That is all.
-Star Trek and A Serious Man can sneak into the Best Pic category and I would be OK with that. Heck, give them a few more nominations and I'd be more than happy.
-The whole "ten best pic nominees" seems kind of pointless now, since the films that would be contending for the top five seem a lot more diverse than last year's field (which sucked terribly, by the way... although I still wouldn't have given The Dark Knight a spot)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I haven't watched late night television regularly in about 5-6 years. I used to be super-big into it, when I had loads of free time and the only quality programming on late at night just happened to be talk shows, but once I grew older (or, acquired a life.... or became addicted to the internet, one of the two), my viewing of late night programming became reduced to the occasional clip of Letterman going off on somebody.

Still, I watched it hardcore for a good 2 years, even beginning to tape shows at the height of my era of free time. Plus, I read a book about late night TV (The Late Shift, which you probably could have deduced by typing in "late night television books" into Google and then finding that it's the only one that pops up). So I must be an expert.

Anyway, there's a lot of outcry over the reports that Jay Leno may perhaps oust Conan O'Brien out of the Tonight Show seat (either that or pushing Conan back half-an-hour). You know, general "Jay Leno sucks and is unfunny and is more or less the embodiment of Satan" stuff. Which is all true to a point, but here's the thing: if this report is true, and Leno takes back the Tonight Show... and there's a good chance it might be, even if it ends up turning out that there's a sudden change of heart and Conan keeps the gig... it's actually kind of sort of *great* news.

A few reasons why:

1) America loves Leno. Of course, he has zero to none cultural significance in today's new media landscape, but... people keep turning in to him, which means that they must like him, right? That he must make them somewhat happy... right? Or mildly pleased at his general presence on their screen?

2) Conan will probably get to go somewhere else, which is good for a number of reasons. One, since the concept of the Tonight Show is that it is this respectable and broadly enjoyable institution, he won't have to worry about making his humor more mainstream. Two, getting screwed over is always good for comedy. I don't think Conan would translate his ouster into "NBC and Leno screwed me over, now watch as I make them rue the day", but I could see him getting mileage out of the self-deprecating "gee, Chevy Chase had a longer run than I did" stuff.

3) Hating Leno is pretty much more fun than anything else in late night TV. I mean, you could hate him for making a soulless, homogenized product, you could hate him for his inexplicable popularity, you could hate him for his disastrous primetime slot and how it's taking away time that could be used for quality primetime programming, and you most certainly could hate him for stealing the Tonight Show away from Letterman way back when. And now he's DOING IT AGAIN. Isn't that great? Only this time around, he gets to have fun with the internet and the 24/7 news media who'll be asking why this guy is replacing a more deserving host AGAIN. Meaning, he's going to be completely destroyed by everyone.

I remember reading in The Late Shift that once upon a time, when Leno was struggling with the Tonight Show, that Letterman was poised to oust him out of his seat. But one problem was that Letterman didn't like the idea of being disliked after for all intents and purposes uncerimoniously bumping Leno out of his gig. Well, flash forward about 18 years, and we're in a similar predicament with the Tonight Show. Except that Leno's the one poised to take over, and already has baggage of the initial undeserving promotion over Letterman.

Even if Leno only pushes back Conan half an hour, there's going to be a crapload of hatred going his way. Which is good, cause hating Leno is amazingly fun, and only bested by hating Leno with everyone else.

Quick NFL playoff thoughts:

-Team I want to play the Vikings in the 2nd round: the Cowboys. Oh lord, do I want to play the Cowboys.

-Team I least want to play the Vikings in the 2nd round: the Cardinals. I don't trust them. After what they pulled last year, seeming to lay low until the playoffs and then just blowing everyone away... with Warner possibly going crazy again... I could honestly see them in the Super Bowl again.

-Likelihood that the 3 games that are repeats of last week go to the previous loser: very, very good. The Cardinals just laid down to get a free look at the Packers, it seems like, and as hot as the Packers seem to be--they seem to be riding almost *too* high. I think the Cardinals will seriously hit them in the face jumpstarting to a 10-0 lead or something, and they won't be able to catch up.

-The Bengals just beat the Jets. Nothing fancy, not a down-to-the-wire classic or a complete annihilation: just a solid 20-7 victory.

-The Eagles and Cowboys is a matchup I'm a bit confused about. My initial instinct is to go with the Eagles, since I would trust Andy Reid to make the proper adjustments to combat the Cowboys more than I would trust Wade Phillips. They both had something to play for, though... and the Cowboys just whipped them. However, the Cowboys might have just wanted to beat the Eagles extra profusely after getting smashed and thusly missing the playoffs by them last year. Perhaps that extra bit of motivation won't be in play this week. Plus, Cowboys recent playoff record = not very good. Eagles 27, Cowboys 19.

-I'm not really sure, but I think a lot of people are predicting the Ravens to upset the Patriots. Which isn't going to happen. Patriots find a way to win by 3, and then the Colts hope like holy hell that they somehow find a way to beat the Chargers.

-Ideal playoff scenario for Vikings: face the Cowboys in the 2nd round. In the championship game, I would honestly take my chances against the Saints and their crowd, who will be extra hyped over a Super Bowl berth waiting in the balance. From what I've seen (which hasn't been a lot), I think we can take the Saints. The Packers = we can definitely beat them a third time, although I think our chances would be better in the 2nd round rather than in the championship game. The Eagles could beat us... but I can't imagine them in the Super Bowl, and the only way they'd play us is in the championship game. The only team I'm *really* worried about is the Cardinals.

-So...

Saints: still good, but three losses in a row have to have them reeling a bit.
Vikings: hopefully with a bit more swagger... still not convinced they're Super Bowl bound, though.
Cowboys: Yep, they've been hot. They also have a combination of Romo/Phillips. Not the combination I'd like in a championship game.
Cardinals: Could be terribly dangerous... who knows, though... I might be wrong, and they just lay a huge egg.
Packers: Playing great, but remind me too much of the Falcons last year, where they had a huge wave of momentum, hot young QB, a lot of expectations to do well... and they fizzled out in the first round.
Eagles: Good for an upset or two... Super Bowl = probably not going to happen, though.

The AFC just comes down to Colts/Chargers in the championship. It's a toss up. Whoever wins that wins the Super Bowl.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sort-of-review: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

OK. I'm not asleep yet. I'm going to keep writing to alleviate guilt, even though my brain isn't completely here at the moment.

I watched this on New Year's, and so it stands as the first film I saw in the new decade ("two-thousand-ten", thank you very much), which must mean something. Or whatever.

To be frank, I wasn't expecting much from this movie. In fact, the first minute or two made me expect even less from it. When the kid at school made fun of the protagonist (whose name I can't remember---Lockwood, I believe) by saying "Ha! He's smart, and smart people are lame" (or something to that effect), I thought "crap, this is going to be like Bee Movie, isn't it?" (Don't get me wrong, Bee Movie holds a dear place in my heart... especially the evil corporate beekeeper that goes "they make the honey, WE make the money!", which is undoubtedly one of the greatest lines in the history of cinema.)

So perhaps the lowered expectations allowed me to actually enjoy it quite a bit when it turned out that the movie didn't actually totally suck.

Sure, it's the average computer animated non-Pixar movie you'd expect, but somehow it manages to be not-irritating. Let's examine the reasons why:

-Well, it's certainly colorful, and sometimes reminiscent of the 80s, strangely.
-The obligatory romance is still kind of boring and contrived, but at least wrapped around the whole "be your inner nerd" thing the movie has going for it, which is neat, I suppose.
-The obligatory "ADHD sidekick" is occupied by a monkey that doesn't actually do much other than say a word or two.
-It spoofs disaster movies actually really effectively--it's just about as realistic as most of them, and probably only a little bit sillier in its usage of spaghetti tornadoes (and things of that ilk).
-The father/son relationship is actually surprisingly honest and touching. I would have expected that it'd be something like "cranky dad is upset son doesn't want to follow in his footsteps, gets jealous at son's success, then inexplicably accepts son as is during key plot point", but it's actually more complex than that.
-Pop culture references--surprisingly low.

Also, there are a lot of bad puns in this movie. A lot of lame lines. But at some point, I didn't really find myself caring about it. I think it's because at some point, after realizing some of the above praises, I thought the writers seemed much more competent, making all the bad and corny lines seem intentional. It's as if they realized that they'd be essentially seen as just another non-Pixar computer animated movie, so they took some of the more cliched elements of recent computer animated fare and just ran with it.

I guess there's some sort of allegory about the dangers of over-consumption, which isn't really pulled off all that amazingly well. But it's a kid movie, so whatever.

RATING:

Review: Avatar

I saw this about a week or two ago. I'd like to say that I've been trying to digest it for the past few days and collect my thoughts about it in order to properly say something about it... but let's be honest, I'm just lazy.

Also, there's nothing to be said about it that hasn't already been said. Cause... you know, just about everyone has seen it and it'll continue to make money until it reaches Titanic-box office proportions, which at that point will hopefully die down once people realize that the top two moneymakers of all time belong to James Cameron.

Who's OK, I suppose. But he's no... *insert cooler director here*.

However, it's really no surprise that it's making so much moolah, as it caters to the average moviegoer's desires: cool special effects, intense action scenes, clearly defined heroes and villains, hot blue on blue action... you know, that sort of thing (I really don't know what people really want... I'm just mentioning the "average moviegoer" so I can then prove why I'm better than them.) And it's quite clear that a lot of time was spent in making the movie, as a lot of the sequences are quite jaw dropping. Every time Sully and Neytiri run through the forest in the middle of the night I'm totally ignoring everything else to enjoy all the neon plant glory. And I was kind of enjoying the final battle, even though I wasn't necessarily "cheering" for anyone.

Great, right? Lots of effort in making this pretty and crap. However, the effort in elevating the script beyond banal, boring and stereotypical=not so much.

This is where I take a random shift and start talking about my favorite blockbuster of the year, that being "Star Trek." Of course, I'm not at all a Star Trek fan (a... Trekker, as the "hip" and "in-the-know" people refer to them as), but yet I've watched the movie three times and every time it was entertaining, thrilling and a joy to watch. The way in which this was accomplished was quite simple, as it just took pretty visuals, a wonderful score and a small (yet totally needed) sense of humor and wonder to make any failures seem unimportant.

The main baddie in Star Trek? He's not all that interesting. I mean, he's got a decent motivation for wanting to kill people and crap, but it's not friggin' "Bicycle Thieves" in trying to get you to understand its characters' poor decisions. It's your typical bad guy, and "Star Trek" gets away with it because it's fun and not trying to be too serious.

This is my problem with Avatar. I mean, the native stereotypes the Na'vi inhabits is bad and what not, but really my ambivalence boils down to the fact that the film's antagonists are just huge stereotypes and the film isn't able to get away with it.

So basically the main bad guys want to kill off the Na'vis because they've got resources they want. Oh man, it's like as if Cameron wanted to somehow, make some sort of connection to some small little war going on... I really can't quite place my finger on which one, though. It's as if he's saying "going to war and killing people for natural resources is BAD".... and if so, it's truly a landmark in anti-war discourse.

I get that the film is obviously designed for mass consumption, so making the film's baddies (I really can't remember the general dude's name... we'll just call him Bush, though) nuanced and complex characters with well-reasoned (if ultimately misplaced) reasons for what they do might dillute the messages the film wants to convey. But come on, Bush is just a broad cartoon that a 3rd grader would end up writing. He's just a bad person, killing off all these blue people because obviously his real life counterpart would want to rack up as many kills in order to get his hands on precious moolah. And I don't care what you think about the guy, but making the stand-in for Bush this one dimensional makes for weak storytelling and a weak critique.

For example, here's a scene that represents what's so frustrating about the movie to me, paraphrased to a large degree:

Bad guy: So why shouldn't we just take Signourney Weaver: *goes into long, scientific dialogue about how beautiful, complex and wonderful the Na'vi life and their relationship with nature is, thus making it impossible for anyone to think ill towards them or wish them harm in ay way, shape or form* Bad guy: ....f*** it, let's bomb them anyway.

Perhaps this would be OK if other certain story elements picked up the slack. You know, characters cracking a joke or two--making them feel somewhat human (or human-esque, I suppose... in the case of the Na'vis). Unfortunately, the rest of the story seems so wooden and calculated that any sort of joy or magic derived from being transported this lovely expansive world gets pretty much negated. The main example coming to mind is the whole "I see you" crap that is so obviously calculated and designed to top the AFI "114 Years, 114 Quotes" list they'll inevitably put out. To put it simply, it's annoying. Plus, it seems that the only way the characters are allowed to show any color is to have them cuss at critical intervals, instead of... you know, writing engaging dialogue.

I don't want to say that everything is a failure. The whole twist on the usual "humans=good, aliens=bad" is fresh enough, even though in the end it's a human that's leading the way for the aliens.

And I'm glad that I saw it, and such, if not for the mere fact that it's THE event at the moment and will rack up the Oscars for combining technical virtuosity with contemporary relevance.

But it's going to age like crap.

RATING:

Not dead... yet.

Christmas happened. Lots of hanging out with family happened. Lots of working happened. Lots of other things happened. Lots of "eh, I really have nothing to say" happened. So that's my excuse. Officially.

Although now that I am writing again, I am hoping that I will now get back in the swing of things and what not.

Which might happen, but we'll see.

I'm going to write another post while I'm watching this movie called "My Name Is Bruce" with my brother... which looks terrible, but in the "bad enough that it's funny/enjoyable to watch with my brother" type way.