Wednesday, February 28, 2007
If you must rely on therapy and "the healing powers of crystals" to control your impulsive anger, you've got some serious challenges ahead on your road to becoming emotionally healthy.
Naomi Campbell regrets her actions, and explains in USAToday that she threw her cell phone into the back of her maid's head, causing minor head trauma, because of "tiredness, lack of sleep (and) just so many things."
Boiled down, those three reasons equal this:
She was tired.
I'm glad my coal mining Dad, who worked as hard any guy I've ever known, never owned a cell phone while I was growing up!
Photo by: Steve Vavreck
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Mostly, though, I love being on talk radio.
Thanks to my friend Jackie, who's blog is called Saved By the Torso, we had the chance to visit the Jerry Waters Show during the Friday broadcast.
Jackie and I met for coffee that morning, and sort of dismissed the notion that Jerry would have us on-air for any real length of time.
Get a polite introduction, then stick around and watch the show being produced. That itself would be wonderful; anything more would be gravy.
Sure, Waters invited us to participate, but clearly a guy running his own show would have too large an ego to let a couple of goofs named The Film Geek and Jackie Lantern be a big part of the goings-on.
Jerry, as it turns out, doesn't have that big an ego. He's a regular guy, who seems to enjoy talking to other regular guys.
And when regular guys weren't available, he didn't mind talking to Jackie and me.
Not only did we discuss blogging (during which we unabashedly plugged The Hot Dog Blog) local bloggers (I tried to cozy up to fellow progressive Raging Red so that she's add me back to her blogroll) and politics (why didn't someone tell me Waters' audience is made up of neo-cons!?!), Waters invited us to weigh in on other topics he discussed during the show.
Waters' co-host, Pete Thaw, didn't know what "blogging" was. This picture was snapped soon after Jackie explained to him the concept, beginning with technology for which Pete had reference:
Jackie: "Well, Pete, imagine an abacus..."
In this picture (courtesy of Jackie) Pete is contemplating.
Charles live-blogged the event, and posted it on his site The Charlestonian.
Scarlet emailed her well wishes, and chided Jerry for being too negative!
Having morning coffee with Jackie and being on the Jerry Waters Show already made for a terrific day. Friday got even better, though, when Stanton invited us to lunch at Chris', and then picked up the tab. Jerry, his friend Dick and Jerry's sometimes-co-host and producer Andy Albertini tagged along.
Great hot dogs, great conversation and friendly folks. All at a great price!
God didn't take kindly to the idea, and decided to visit the construction site Itself.
Like its over-reaction at the conclusion of the creation story, the God of Genesis seemed troubled at what I see as progress. Inspiration and knowledge. Common understandings, and deep personal connections with other humans.
The ability to discern right from wrong.
So, Yahweh takes a look around and decides what's going on in Babel needs stopped, and fast. It wills that humans be scattered across the face of the earth, and speak in languages that will "confound" and "confuse" one another.
That sort of stops all the plotting and planning, you see.
The story of the Tower of Babel might be a way to explain how populations spread across the world, and how various languages developed. But it always made me uncomfortable because it paints the god of Genesis as petty, and as opposed to progressive evolution.
Preferring an isolated, confused population over one that can communicate easily just seems too controlling to me, and too short sighted.
Babel, directed by Alenjandro Gonzalez Inarritu and starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and a large number of supporting actors who really make up the heart of the film, tells the tale of that loss of community and the various types of isolation that results.
Similar to Crash, Babel tells four stories that take place in Morocco, Japan, Mexico and America, and how characters we meet and situations they encounter are connected to one event: the accidental shooting of an American woman (Blanchett) as she vacations in Morocco. As we watch the events unfold, we recognize how our isolation--the distances we put between ourselves and others through language, politics, fear, technology and poverty--effects us as humans on a day-to-day basis.
Long ago, according to Genesis, we had taken away from us the values that come from community, and forced upon us values focused on individual need, personal desire and selfish ambition. Inarritu does a fantastic job demonstrating that in subtle but powerful ways.
I'm still pulling for Little Miss Sunshine to hit the Oscar Best Picture jackpot. But Babel is the real deal. I hope you enjoyed it too.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
Eastwood's film is different. Flags tells the often untold story of emotional turmoil that can occur when soldiers get caught within the politics of war, and exposes the financial motivations that might cause our country to create and push the concept of hero.
Flags Of Our Fathers tells the story of Doc Bradley, Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes, three of the six troops photographed planting the American flag on a hilltop at Iowa Jima, soon after that famous World War 2 battle ended. The federal government realized quickly that the faceless picture resonated with the American people. So, they grab up the three troops who are still alive and take them on a whirlwind, cross-country tour, on which they are instructed to sell Americans on war bonds.
You know. To support the troops and all.
The White House realized that one picture--one simple picture--connected with people so strongly that it would make them pony up some dough. And lots of dough, at a time when it was really needed. Unless a windfall of cash comes in quick, the soldiers are told, the war would soon be over for the United States.
That picture was the key to the billfolds and purses of millions of people, and millions of dollars.
There was only one problem: The photo was staged.
The picture changed the lives of the three soldiers forever. Each handled the events that transpired with different levels of acceptance and dignity, but each was significantly changed.
Packaged into something they weren't, and sold as a commodity. They knew it, and it ate at them--it hit Ira Hayes particularly hard--from the inside.
Eastwood does a nice job showing true heroism on the battlefield, and contrasting that with the concept of "heroism" that the government packaged to sell. Flags is most successful, however, in showing how easily people can be swayed by something as simple as a photograph. We want to feel connected to our community and our country. We want to feel as though we share a stake in the outcome of decisions made by our political leaders.
And because of that desire, we often presume that what we see portrayed in pictures is a true-to-life representation of events, and that we are not being suckered by polished PR firms masquerading as government suits.
Flags points out that sometimes, at least, we are.
Maybe too often.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
For example, when we went to see Beloved (1998), starring The Big O.
[Dumb guy] "Two to see the Opal Winston movie, please."
Sure, it's goofy. But sometimes it makes her laugh. And, it keeps the romance sizzlin' at home.
I wish we had picked another movie instead. Beloved, which starred Danny Glover and Thandie Newton in addition to Opal--uh, I mean Oprah--was just god-awful. Winfrey played Sethe, a former slave who moved after the Civil War to a farm in southern Ohio. Glover co-starred as a friend, Paul, who happened upon her and was invited to move in. Newton's character, Beloved, arrived unexpectedly about the same time strange poltergeist-type occurrences began on the farm. The character was almost absurd: she moved in a herky-jerky sort of way, had to be taught to speak and had the affect of a zombie. Turns out she may have been the ghost of Sethe's dead daughter.
In addition, the popcorn sucked that night. It was cold, greasy and not salty enough.
The only good thing about the flick was that it was a serious stumbling block for the otherwise ultra-successful Winfrey. It probably kept her from making another feature.
It still haunts me.
I loved this [gulp] period piece.
The Illusionist, set around 1900 in Vienna, Austria, is definitely a period piece. The dress, the accents, the hoity-toity high society customs and pretentious manners of royalty--all present in the movie, all the time. But, The Illusionist isn't about the period. The story of love, mystery, corruption and politics could have easily been a modern day-themed flick. The film was so well done that after the first 10 minutes I didn't even notice the Austrian accents of the characters.
Edward Norton is Eisenheim the Illusionist who, as a young child, met and fell in love Sophie, a royal who would in later years become engaged to the Crown Prince. Young Eisenheim is obsessed with magic and illusion, and spends hours a day fine-tuning his skills. After being forced never to see each other again--after all, a royal chick can't date a commoner--Eisenheim travels the world in order to educate himself in the dark arts.
Years later, his skill at illusion is so great it is rumored that he sold his soul to Satan for his magical ability.
Crown Prince Leopold, a tyrant who happens to also be now engaged to Sophie, becomes obsessed with figuring out Eisenheim's tricks. When he can't--and after he has been embarrassed by the magician-- Leopold orders Eisenheim's act to be shut down. By that time, however, Eisenheim and Sophie have reconnected and schemed to leave the area to live together. In a happily-ever-after sorta way.
The remaining portion of The Illusionist is a brilliant mystery that involves redirection, intrigue, political manipulation and a murder investigation. Paul Giammati, who plays mostly corrupt Inspector Uhl, is remarkable as a character who admires Eisenheim as a person and as an artist, but feels obligated to carry out the wishes of his despot Prince. Uhl knows where his bread is buttered, and his personal ambition plays a significant role in making the outcome of this movie a success.
Someday, The Academy is gonna figure it out and give this guy the Oscar he deserves.
Across the board, the acting in this movie is outstanding, and light is used perfectly to create a constant visual sense of mystery. Although the ending is somewhat predictable, how the movie gets there is more important than how the movie concludes.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
While looking over his resume, I realized I had never seen Smith's Six Degrees Of Separation.
Netflix, work your magic.
I was eager to see the flick, mostly because I've read for years how Smith came off like a huge pro in his first significant, big-time movie role. But, the day the red envelope arrived I sat it aside. It's been a busy, busy week and I was just barely getting by. Watching a movie from 1993 that I knew all about anyway wasn't a high priority.
It felt almost as senseless as watching movies more than once.
I mean, what sort of goofball does that?
My Aunt Linda and this guy are the only two I know...
Life settled down last evening and I popped the red envelope open and slipped the wide-screen version into the DVD player. Settled in, ready to take in that Will Smith magic. I knew the story, which was loosely based on real events, about a confidence man in New York City who pretended to be the son of Sidney Poitier in order to get close to (and sometimes burglarize) wealthy folks. I expected Smith to have the meatiest role, and to carry the film.
I was surprised to discover that it's Stockard Channing, the film's female lead, who really carried Six Degrees. Her Ouisa Kittredge opens the film (in which she co-stars with Donald Sutherland) portraying the character as a shallow aristocrat who flits about sampling life rather than really participating in it. She expects this is how rich folks live, I think, and designed an existence to fit that stereotypical lifestyle. We quickly realize that the introduction to Smith's character Paul changes Kittredge. It makes her feel for, maybe, the first time. To question herself, and her direction. Makes her realize the power of relationships, and from connecting intimately with another human beings.
(Even if that other human being is a con man.)
I really enjoyed Six Degrees Of Separation, especially after I realized the whirlwind that is the first 20 minutes is intended--and necessary--in order to understand the shallow, moment-by-moment existence of the Kittredge couple. The flick is entertaining, and reminds you to pay attention to the really important things in life.
And Will Smith wasn't too bad, either.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
But I ain't no real blogger, and I never much followed the rules. Rules about things like blogging were established by people much cooler and in the know that I'll ever be.
The truth is, I am interested in what other people think of The Film Geek. I like hearing from people regarding my comments on movies, and how many of those movies (Basic Instinct 2 being an exception) have effected me in some way. And besides, I do need a place to store my rants about Oprah.
Please! Make it stop!
Yep, I write The Film Geek because I really do enjoy the people who stop by. It may sound cheesy, but I appreciate the folks who are regular visitors, and I get a kick out of those anonymous readers who stumble upon this site because one day they wondered what happened to Meeno Peluce.
When I first wrote a brief paragraph about the movie Elizabethtown last February, I recall being painfully aware that I didn't have an identity. I didn't have my own voice. I also was uncertain what to expect, and would not have predicted that-- one year later-- I would have written 322 posts, commented on 95 movies and developed relationships with a diverse community of bloggers.
You helped me find my voice, and you made the year really interesting.
Monday, February 12, 2007
I thought the updated version of Roxanne was too Sting-y, really. And I haven't been a fan of his since the 1986 break-up.
But Stewart Copeland rocked on drums! And the harmony was tight.
Maybe I expected too much. I was riding the nostagia wave pretty hard, telling my ten-year-old Maddisen how, in the early 80s, the band she was seeing really was that great.
"What's he saying?" she asked.
"He's singing 'Put on the red light," I answered, while simultaneously shussing her so I could hear the gig.
"Why is he just humming and stuff after the chorus?" she asked, even after I'd talked myself into believing that was not what he was doing.
"He's Sting. That's what he does." It's all I could muster.
Was it just me?
Sunday, February 11, 2007
I have only three children, only one of whom is [possibly] diabolical. Somehow, though, I still identify with the guy.
Recently widowed, Mr. Brown struggles not only with how to parent his children, but also with re-discovering his own direction in life. To make matters worse, his purse-holding Aunt wants him married again within a month. If he isn't, he loses the financial allowence she gives him, and the kids will be seperated.
He's desperate. Enter Emma Thompson as Nanny McPhee to, ultimately, lead the effort to sove all the problems.
Based on the book series Nurse Matilda, Nanny McPhee is a terrific movie about restoring hope with discipline, humor and acceptance. It's also about the importance of personal growth, and how luck and lifestyle can improve with a simple change in perception.
My kids loved the flick, too. Here's what Griffyn (6) had to say:
1. What did you like best about Nanny McPhee?
Answer: "When the Dad and the girl got married! They had a food fight that was funny."
2. Do you wish you had a nanny, like Nanny McPhee?
Answer: "Uh, no. She had a big tooth that came over her lip, and a thing that made noise and magic. She made the kids drink ink."
3. Are you going to be good from now on, so I don't have to hire a Nanny McPhee?
Answer: "I'm always good."
Yep, you are.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Develop a plan, stick to it and don't back down.
Bullying behavior is central to the theme of Hoot. The movie tells the story of three teens who fight against the development of property that is home to several families of burrowing owls. The development company bullies most everyone to get the property developed quickly, regardless of the owls. The kids--Roy and his friends--act on behalf of the owls, believing the vulnerable birds need help to avoid being ousted from their homes.
Hoot clearly strives to be more message movie than entertainment, which allows for some characters to be cartoonish, and poorly developed. And the obvious message of the film may make some non-tree huggers frustrated. It's a simple film, really, with a simple message:
We humans make a lot of noise, and disrupt a lot of nature in our efforts to make a buck. Sometimes we need reminded to be quiet, and simply listen to what's going on around us.
That's a fine message, and one I buy into. But, Hoot would have made the point better, I think, had Jimmy Buffett not played a supporting role in the flick. I admit to not being a fan of the Parrot Head, but I'm even less a fan of his commercial efforts. I've seen too many neon "Margaritaville" signs across the south--and too many overpriced T-shirts sold in his gift shops--to buy anything Buffett is selling about the enviornment and commercialism.
Despite Hoot not being really well developed, I liked it. And, so did my kids, even after the snacks were gone. That says something, anyway.
The first choice was the parking lot of White's Funeral Home. Some kids claimed to gather there because it was the most centrally located parking lot in town, and you could see the passers-by so easily.
But I'm convinced it was for the macabre.
That, and the faint smell of formaldehyde.
But Groves' was a happenin' place. It had the only movie screen for 45 miles, a fairly well-stocked concession stand and a reputation for allowing 15 year-olds in to see R-rated flicks like Porky's.
So, after some Pac-Man at the Go-Mart and a thick crust at the Pizza Hut, those of us lucky enough to have a date for Saturday night would head over to the theater, regardless of what movie was on. Some of the stuff we saw was magical; others turned out to be just a way to kill a couple of hours. Once in a while, though, I'd walk out of the movie unsure of what I'd seen. So caught up in trying to impress a date, or simply too absorbed in teenagery, I'd let the plot of what I'd just seen slip by.
Some of those date movies I'd like a second chance with are:
Super Fuzz (1982). Here's what I remember: (1) A cop gets dunked in some kind of toxic waste; (2) Cop develops super powers that help him fight crime; (3) Cop temporarily loses newly-gained super powers when he sees the color red; (4) Rather than simply drop me off at the movies my Mom went too, and sat a few rows behind me while I tried to get busy on a first date with Mary Beth.
I don't recall the movie in detail. And, there was never a second date with Mary Beth.
On Golden Pond (1981). Henry Fonda's final big-screen flick was, I'm told, well acted and highly sentimental. But c'mon, I wasn't paying attention to anything other than my girlfriend's tearful reaction.
Sentimental movie + tears + sensitive-guy act from me = a fun time someplace other than White's parking lot after the movie. It took some concentration, but it worked!
My Tutor (1983). The father of a horny rich teen hires a gorgeous 30-year old blond to tutor him in French.
OK, I have to be honest. I remember a lot about this movie.
I have, however, forgotten the name of my date.
The China Syndrome (1979). Jill, my date that night and my first real girlfriend, really dug Michael Douglas with the rugged beard and hippie-looking hair. I was jealous. So much that I had trouble watching the movie any time he was on screen.
Now that I take a second glance, she was right. He is pretty hot.
Private Benjamin (1980). Even the beautiful Goldie Hawn couldn't keep my attention when I saw this movie as one half of my first double date. Both couples were on our first dates, and nervous as hell. I remember Goldie crying a lot in this movie, and a funny reference to oral sex. Other than that, I draw a complete blank.
Later that night, we mixed things up by going to the Go-Mart before White's parking lot.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Truth is, I really did love it. Every episode. The show, which ran on NBC from 1982 through 1988 was brilliant; it combined very human stories with a unique visual presentation, excellent writing that helped the show feel authentic and a cast of talented actors who seemed to do their best individual work while being part of a large ensemble.
Anyone remember Denzel Washington?
I think what I loved most about St. Elsewhere was how a show about a bunch of medical professionals in big-city Boston's St. Eligius Hospital could make this then-teen-aged country boy from rural West Virginia feel like family.
Not a distant cousin or some type of in-law, but real family. The kind you don't feel obligated to pull out good china for when I visit. The sort of family you get excited to see, and love to spend time with. St. Elsewhere made me feel part of something unique, something special.
Until Chad Allen, and "The Last One."
For years, Allen played Tommy Westphall, the young son of Dr. Donald Westphall. Dr. Westphall was wise, but flawed. There was a sense of sadness about him, as if he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. But, he carried it quietly, and with dignity. That dignity was evident when he provided medical care to patients, when he taught medical students completing residency at St. Eligius and when he parented Tommy, who happened to have autism.
For six years I visited my family at St. Elsewhere, watching Dr. Morrison (David Morse) become as good a human being as he was a doctor, hoping Dr. Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) would soon stop being a kiss-ass and crossing my fingers that Dr. Axelrod (Stephen Furst) would begin to develop some confidence.
Until Chad Allen, and "The Last One."
The final episode of St. Elsewhere, titled "The Last One" ended with Ed Flanders (wearing clothes that identified him not as a doctor, but as a construction worker) walking into a small apartment. In a chair sat Norman Lloyd-- known to viewers for years as Dr. Auschlander--dressed casually, and quickly revealed to be the father of the Construction-Man Donald Westphall.
Sitting quietly in the floor, staring intently into a snow globe was Tommy.
Westphall paused, looks at Auschlander and said: "I don't understand this autism. I talk to my boy, but...I'm not even sure if he ever hears me...Tommy's locked inside his own world. Staring at that toy all day long. What does he think about?"
It was all a fantasy! My beloved characters--Wayne Fiscus, Peter White, Jack Morrison and Elliott Axelrod--each simply a fantasy conjured up by a kid staring at a snow globe!
I was crushed, and angry. So much so that I boycotted the episodes of Highway to Heaven, The Wonder Years and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman that featured Chad Allen as a guest star. I stayed away from his guest star turns on NYPD Blue, Cold Case and Charmed. I did see him recently, though, in a small role in TV's Criminal Minds.
Maybe it's time for a healing, after all...
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Most times that something is heroin. Other times it's found in how she manipulates men.
Maggie Gyllenhaall is remarkable as the lead in Sherrybaby. In perhaps her most substantial role since Secretary, Gyllenhaal displays incredible range: she is at different times desperate, independent, insecure, tough and even sexy.
Gyllenhaal morphs Sherry through these emotions and traits in very subtle ways, and always in convincing fashion.
As good a Gyllenhaal's acting is in this movie, Sherrybaby is difficult to watch. The character's main goal is to regain custody of her young daughter, all the while unaware--as the audience clearly is very much aware--that she does not have the skills to be a good mother. As she gets closer to that goal, it's difficult to remain sympathetic to the character.
We simply don't want her to have her daughter, because we know the harm it would cause the child.
Sherrybaby is an honest, in-depth look inside the life of a young woman who never had much of a chance to succeed. As tough as the film is to watch, it's honest. And that makes it worth the viewing.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
With only slightly better results.
Costner stars as Ben Randall, the Coast Guards most decorated and bravest rescue swimmer. Randall's also the most narrowly-focused of his team members, a guy who too often sacrifices his own safety in order to rescue people from the deep. That single-mindedness puts his team in danger during one rescue attempt, with devastating results that leave Randall--and his superiors--a little unsure about his abilities. He's getting a bit long in the tooth; maybe he's lost a step, even though he still has the swagger.
The Coast Guard re-assigns Randall to a training facility, where his job becomes training new recruits to be rescue swimmers. A star recruit--Jake Fischer, played by Ashton Kutcher--emerges after several weeks. He's a talented swimmer with a selfish bent and a narrow perspective about life.
Randall soon wishes he knew how to quit Fischer!
At the end of the flick, Fischer's rough edges are polished and Randall's heroic personality is confirmed in a dramatic rescue scene. Mrs. Film Geek cried, which caused me to awaken from my Costner-induced nap. It's a good thing The Guardian is so formulaic, as I otherwise might have missed something important!
The Guardian is Top Gun meets An Officer and a Gentleman, without the jet-fighter speed or the romance of Gere and Winger. It may be a solid story, but at well over 2 hours it is way too long.
And it feels that way.