Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cannonballin' For A Cause

Those who read Don't Print This and Strange Places already know that Bill Lynch is a really talented writer. You may not know, however, that the guy's willing to freeze his junk off for a good cause.

Watch him do it here.

Bill: If this event occurs again next Winter, count me in! And maybe-- just maybe-- we could get a group of regional bloggers to take the plunge too.

Lord knows, a couple of us could use a bath...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wild Hogs

I need an adventure.

I've never been interested in hobbies that are often stereotyped as "manly." In fact, I've always had some measure of pride in being quite manly due directly to my comfortable acceptance of being unmanly.

(But then I go and use words like "quite," which makes me sound like a real wuss. Which is worse than being unmanly, of course. Much, much worse.)

I need an adventure.

It might be a mid-life thang, but I'm not convinced. The feeling isn't something that a red corvette, career change or trophy wife would fix. My need for adventure isn't based in feeling unfulfilled, or in a need to prove myself. I think mostly it's rooted simply in a desire to feel like I'm living in the moment, facing down danger and truly experiencing life. I don't need that feeling every day. Really. Maybe even once a decade would work.

But I do need an adventure.

I realized my need while watching Wild Hogs. The movie-- starring a bunch of actors who are better than this movie, to be honest--follows the adventure of a quartet of weekend bikers who become Easy Rider posers. Tired of the routine and safety that comes with their cushy desk jobs, driving kids to school in a mini-van, sitting through weekly gymnastics practices, getting geeked up over the return of the TV show Lost or counting down the weekdays until Friday's scheduled trip to Comic World, they decide to go on an adventure.


Waitaminute...that wasn't the plot of the movie. That was the plot of my life. I apologize for the confusion, but see what I mean?

I need an adventure. I'm just not sure what the adventure is gonna be.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Brooklyn Rules

Mrs. Film Geek has the serious hots for mobsters.

I don't think it's the bad hair of the portly body type of the Anthony Soprano stereotype she likes (if that was the case she'd not find me attractive, what with my great hair and Adonis-like body). Rather, I'm pretty sure it's the brotherhood, secret handshakes and the loyalty among thieves that she digs.

Her love for all-things-gangster, though, sometimes plays a role in my movie viewing options. She loves searching the Netflix site for "gangster" and "mob" and having flicks like Brooklyn Rules mailed to our home.


The upside: Brooklyn Rules was written by Sopranos bigshot scribe Terence Winter, and co-stars always-great-as-a-bad-guy Alec Baldwin as the leader of the local branch of the city's mob family.

The downside: Freddie Prinze, Jr. is the lead, and the story is less about gangsters as it is about three lifelong friends trying to figure out their paths in life.

Prinze is okay as the smart one, who struggles to keep his hands clean even while his instinct isn't always very noble. Jerry Ferrara is mostly unbelievable as Bobby, the baby-faced innocent who never seems to have his plans work out for him. The standout performance is Scott Caan, the son of James Caan, who plays the role of Carmine. Carmine recognizes that, unlike his two friends, his career options are pretty narrow. He's attracted to the bling of the gangster lifestyle, and gets in hip-deep before even realizing it.

His actions, of course, affect his two best friends.

Brooklyn Rules is an average film, with a predictable plot and outcome. Although it's not very original, the story is at least interesting and well written.

It's just not very sexy.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Remembering Heath Ledger

I don't pretend to know what sort of human being Heath Ledger was. I know he was a young man before his death earlier this week, and seemed to be relishing his new role as a father. Ledger seemed rather shy and introspective, at least during the few public interviews I saw him give.

But damn, that boy could act.

I thought he was just another pretty face in The Patriot. Then, as if giving the finger to me for pigeonholing him too quickly, Ledger blew me away in Monster's Ball. Ledger's "Sonny" served as the moral compass for the film, and the reason for the personal evolution that occurs in Hank, the character played by Billy Bob Thornton. Ledger's work in Ball was significant enough to make lots of folks take notice, but not a career builder in and of itself.

That came with Ennis Del Mar, Ledger's character from Brokeback Mountain. The character was tough and rough, and very masculine. He also happened to be gay, and in love with another man. Ledger's approach to creating Del Mar helped that character come across as genuine and truthful, and as having a great sense of integrity. I agree with fellow movie-lover Ian Casselberry that Brokeback Mountain is one of the most important films of the last decade.

The importance of that movie became evident this week when bloggers and news sources reported the infamous "God Hates Fags" church, the Westboro Baptist Church, from Kansas, would be protesting outside Ledger's stateside memorial services. “You cannot live in defiance of God,” a spokesperson for the church said. “He got on that big screen with a big, fat message: God is a liar and it’s OK to be gay.”

I doubt seriously that Ledger would appreciate being known for one single role from his career. I do know, though, that the Westboro Baptist Church folk have it all wrong. Ledger's role in Brokeback wasn't important because it slapped a god they happen to worship in the face.

The movie, and Ledger's role in it, was important because of other reasons:

Somewhere in America, after seeing that movie, a kid who previously felt ashamed of his sexual tendencies stopped thinking about suicide. After seeing that movie, at least one set of parents stopped hating their son. Someone who occasionally went out on weekends to bully and beat homosexuals stopped after seeing that movie. And someone who professed to despise the homosexual lifestyle watched Ledger's performance in Brokeback and felt compassion, and made a personal move toward acceptance.

Even if only an inch.

That's Ledger's legacy, at least in my eyes. The "God Hates Fags" people are right about one thing: Ledger did make some powerful statements to his audience. And because of the statements that came from his artistry, the lives of a few people-- and our society as a whole-- are better off.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tip Jar

Evil Twin's Wife's blog, The Glamorous Life Of A Hausfrau, is a terrific read, even though I don't know what the hell a Hausfrau is. (I was never very good at Espanol.)

I mean, I got me some guesses. But I'm a-guessing those are wrong.

Recently, Evil Twin's Wife (if you have noticed, I have a bit of an obsession over never using abbreviations, and always capitalizing all words in a title. I know both are wrong, but that's the way I roll, man) placed me on a list of bloggers she enjoys reading. The "A Roar For Powerful Words" list. The gig is accompanied by the obligation to provide three tips on blogging, and bestow the award to five other bloggers.

Now, you and I both realize that I know very damn little about blogging. And provide tips on the topic? I still use a Model-T crank to start up the Internet, folks. Blogging is like magic to me, still. So, with that disclaimer, here I go:

Tip #1: Work blue when you want to.

I rarely work blue, but goddamn it I'll fuckin' do it when I please. My junior high principal, George Bailey, once commented during an assembly that profanity simply exposed the speaker's poor vocabulary.

I recall thinking he was a goddamned pretentious snob who couldn't find his ass if he had to. But, that was me thinking with an 8th grader's vocabulary. Now, I'd say he wasn't diverse in his thinking.

It's your blog, curse if you want to.

Tip #2: Write for you.

I know bloggers who write for an audience. Unless I'm getting paid for it, that's just not for me. Enough said.

Tip #3: Don't ever let blogging interfere with your family time.

Sure, blogging can interfere with work and school all you want, those things aren't that important. But let it interfere with your family once, and it's a major mistake.

I've done it. I know.


ETW, Hoyt and Buzzardbilly have handed this award out to many of the West Virginia bloggers that I know well, already tagging them for this award. So, five folks I've not seen tagged who deserve some recognition are:

All Click, No Point: All Click has a terrific sense of humour, and a lively British wit. He's also become a good friend over the past year or so. His blog is always entertaining.

Blog! The Musical: No doubt Spike will make fun of me for adding him to this list. But his podcast blog is highly entertaining, very smart and something everyone should check out as often as possible. The bloke posts too infrequently, but I think that's because it takes him so long to actually come up with material. [ahem]

Fried Rice Thoughts: Ian Casselberry's blog was one of the first I read when I started trying to figure out how to do this hobby. He probably doesn't realize how much I learned from his stuff. He's a terrific writer, and his blog is a must read for me.

J And C And Me: One of the most honest, genuine and funny blogs in the state.

The Charlestonian: Charles--if that is his real name--reminds me of that guy at a party who stands in the corner watching all the other party goers, who then remembers everything he saw and comments about it in detail the next day. He seems familiar to me, because I'm usually in the opposite corner, watching the same folks. Charles writes in a way that always entertains me. I just wish (a) he's post more often, and (b) he'd add me to his list of links.

UPDATE: When I realized I wanted this posted on Wednesday but accidentally posted it on Tuesday, I just had to change it. (The obsession thing, again.) That was after Charles commented. So, I pasted his comment in the Comments section myself. Sorry, Charles.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger

MSNBC is reporting 28-year-old actor Heath Ledger was found dead today in his apartment. More comment later when details are available.

UPDATE: Reports are that Ledger was found dead in his New York apartment, and may have died as a result of either an accidental overdose or suicide. Apparently, he was found with what is believed to be sleeping pills scattered around his body.

I recall Ledger from his role in The Patriot, but it was his role in Monster's Ball that made me take notice of his artistry. His work as Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain deserved an Academy Award.

He was a real artist.

UPDATE II: Reports are scaling back on the idea of suicide. The sleeping pills are now described to have been "on a nightstand beside his bed," and there is talk of Ledger having pneumonia. This very well could have been the result of a tragic accident.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

How I Wanna Be When I Get Young

Just ran across this terrific West Virginia blog, Jeff's Skateboard Page. This guy lives the life I wanna live, but am too much of a sissy to do.

Like his--and my--buddy
Jackie, these guys got some skatin' in their blood. Poppin' Ollies, turning a railstand into a primo and nosegrinding: these are the kind of guys I pretend to be when I'm driving my mini-van through downtown.

Check out Jeff's Skateboard Page. And pretend along with me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cloverfield

Knowing Cloverfield was going to play to a packed theater (at least during the opening weekend, I say with a sly wink) I bought my ticket a little early, and grabbed a seat as close to the middle as I could. Several times during the commercials for local business and before the movie ended, I measured up the audience.

I seemed to fit right in.

J.J. Abrams, the producer/director/writer du jour, seems to have a fairly specific and heavily devoted audience. Geeks sat on the edge of their seats during the commercial for the upcoming new season of Lost, shushing audience members who were talking, in case Abrams provided any new clues about Jack, Sawyer and Kate. (He didn't.) Socially insecure teens watched with their coats and toboggans on, as if taking off the protective clothing would create more discomfort than leaving them on and being hot. And socially awkward adults anticipated a film filled with common Abrams themes: a healthy suspicion of the government; a story-within-the-story plot line, where what's happening on-screen is in reaction to the bigger (but not always evident) picture; and the knowledge that what you are seeing on screen isn't always what it seems.

I'll let you decide the group(s) with which I associate myself. (Here's a hint: it's more than one.) But sadly, not every group got what it was expecting.

The Losties were given no clues about how Jack and his fellow castaways will fare this season on the show.

The insecure teens struggled through the 74 minute film in a packed theater that was several degrees too warm.

And geeky adults watched a movie that was far less entertaining than they expected and hoped.

The first 15 minutes of Cloverfield sets up the relationships of the characters, particularly the relationship between lead Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and his former-best-friend-turned-lover. Told through scenes from a camcorder, the film moves from sweet and funny home movies to scenes that document the destruction of New York City.

By what? The audience isn't sure, and Abrams never tells us. Because it's irrelevant to the movie. Just like Lost is less about what caused the accident that lead to the castaways being on the island and more about how they experience that trauma, Cloverfield isn't about the monster that's destroying the city. It's about the human reaction to that destruction.

The flick coulda used a bit more fear factor.The monster--nearly irrelevant enough to be tagged a MacGuffin--is as much a mystery at the movie's conclusion as it was at the start.

The visual aspect of the story telling is interesting. Without "The Blaire Witch Project" pioneering the hand-held camera perspective, Cloverfield would be ingenious. Several years after Witch, the technique isn't that remarkable. There is a tremendous amount of information given to the audience in short segments via the camcorder perspective, but it still delivers less than desired.

Overall, I was disappointed with Cloverfield. And the majority of the audience seemed to be, too. I sorta expect dollars to drop off quickly.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Film Scenes That Matter: Reservoir Dogs

Next to the building where I work is a cafeteria, which has a really great salad bar and a hot buffet. It's not great food, but it's healthy and convenient. Mostly I go there when I'm not eating at my desk, or when I have no lunch companions.

Like [ahem] most days.

I walked into the place after 1pm, hoping the lunch crowed was gone. It was. I found a table and seated myself, then hit the salad bar and poured myself a glass of tea from the pitcher beside the bar. After finishing the salad I grabbed a clean plate, picked up some food from the buffet and re-filled my glass of tea.

Reading the newspaper while I ate was relaxing.

At 1:30pm the hostess came to my table and asked if it was OK if I paid now, since she was going off duty and needed to reconcile her drawer. "Sure," I said, and handed her my debit card. I turned back to the newspaper when she said:

"Would you like to leave a tip on the card?"

What the hell?!?

Suddenly, my head was filled with this scene, from Reservoir Dogs:




"Yeah', I said. ' $3.00."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

American Idiot: The She Bangs Collection

William Hung, the American Idol wanna-be from a few seasons ago seemed innocent enough, and was likable. But, he sang his song in a shaky voice that was real as the day was long.

(Oops, I accidentally lifted another Neil Young
lyric. And Hung's singin' voice wasn't real. It sucked. Period.)

Hung made a bit of money off his being mocked by the AI tri-judges. He put out a CD or two, got a small cult following and made some commercials.


Good for him.

The problem is: Hung started a trend that disturbs me. Like, well...this guy, from last night's 2008 season premier:

I don't' care about the chicken or the egg debate of whether TV creates guys like this, or whether he's empowered by using TV to further his desires. I'm simply tired of seeing goofballs like Hairy Chest Guy get his 7.5 minutes of fame. But more importantly, I'm disturbed at AI--and the American public--for embracing a pastime of laughing at people who live with obvious psychological challenges. People who think they can sing because they have little or no personal insight, live with mental illness or have an autism spectrum disorder. They are set up to be mocked and taunted by millions, and have no clue it's going to happen.

(Excluding Hairy Chest Guy, of course. He didn't seem to have a disorder. He was just an ass.)

Beginning tonight, AI goes in the Mel Gibson drawer for me. I'm just not gonna participate.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Simpsons Movie

Now that I've stopped laughing, I've started thinking about The Simpsons Movie.

Here is My Top Five: Ways I'm Similar To Homer Simpson

1. Homer's pear-shaped body was forged by beer. The Film Geek's pear-shaped body was forged by laziness. And beer.

2. Homer has three children, each smarter than their father. The Film Geek has three children, each smart enough to know they should pretend to be dumber than their father.


3. MMMMMMM....donuts.

2. Homer has a good heart and wants to do the right thing, even though he's too self absorbed to pay attention to the needs of others. The Film Geek...I'm sorry, what were you saying?


1.
"Well, sometimes you have to stand back to appreciate a work of art." ~ Marge Simpson / Mrs. Film Geek on their husbands-in-progress

Friday, January 11, 2008

Whatever Happened To...Joanna Cameron

I never knew what "zepher" was, as in the phrase: "Oh zephyr winds which blow on high, lift me now so I can fly."

And I didn't care.

What I did know, and did care about, was that Joanna Cameron was speaking the line.

You know.
Isis.



The better half of the CBS team-up of The Secrets Of Isis and Shazam! aired from 1975 to 1977, and followed the adventures of a high school science teacher who could become a super hero. Cameron's character, Andrea Thomas, discovered a magical amulet that grants her the powers of super strength, the ability to fly, blah blah blah and yadda yadda yadda.


Whatever...

Have you seen the picture of this woman!?!

I didn't care what the hell her powers were. Just put on the cute white skirt, Isis, and stay on camera as long as you possibly can.

Isis ended in the Fall of '77. Cameron went on to do some TV guest spots, and starred in and directed
some movie shorts for the Navy.

And I spent a lot more time outside on Saturdays...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

All The Good Protests Occur Where I'm Not

Dear Charles:

I thought your offer to provide a "
pictures of downtown Charleston" section to your typically issues-oriented blog, The Charlestonian, was a terrific idea. It's a wonderful way to promote the city which, as you point out on your blog, has it's share of "quirks, oddities and absurdities."

Plus, Charleston gets all
the good protests!

I hope you'll consider adding this photo to your new picture section. And if not, I'll keep a copy for myself. You know, just as a reminder why it's A-OK with me for the Mayor to double the user fee in order to work downtown.

Sincerely,

The Film Geek

( photo by Kenny Kemp)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Blogging As Therapy

While winding through the small, one-lane country road that leads to the home of my son's baby-sitter this morning, I accidentally hit and killed a young rabbit with my car. It shot across the road really fast, trying to get from one large yard on my left to another large yard on my right, I suppose.


I was paying attention, and not speeding.

I swear.

But I couldn't stop the car fast enough, and ran over the rabbit.



The event was slightly disturbing for me, especially considering that I got out of the car to see if I could save the rabbit, and witnessed the last few seconds of life leaving it's body.

It was even more traumatic because of the memory that it resurrected.

A kid growing up on a farm in the mountains of central West Virginia can't help but get close to nature on an almost daily basis. And part of getting close to nature, especially in deep Appalachian Mountain culture, involves hunting. I did my fair share of hunting, with my Dad and also by myself when I was a bit older. I don't think I enjoyed killing animals, but I didn't think too much about it as a pre-teen.

It was what it was, and it was what we did.

Besides, we lived next door to
guys like these. Guns and hunting came easy.



One summer day in what I would guess was 1978, my family and I were taking a nice weekend drive through Jerry's Fork, along a very rugged mountain ridge near a place called Peach Orchard. The truck had to travel slowly, so my brother and I rode in the back of the flat-bed, goofing off mostly and looking for trouble. Suddenly, a groundhog shot across the path, and headed over an embankment into a creek bed about 40 yards from the truck.

My brother Jeff and I let out a holler and jumped out of the truck. As my dad tried to figure out what we were doing, we began chasing the groundhog through the creek, screaming and tossing rocks at it as we ran. We cornered it, finally, against a hillside just beside the creek.


In some type of hypnotic blood-lust, we stoned that groundhog to death.





After the groundhog died, my brother and I were sort of unsure how we should feel. We spent our childhood playing Cowboys & Indians, idolizing John Wayne and begging to go hunting with our dad; we had a romantic ideal of killing, and expected it to make us feel heroic, or strong.

Instead, it made us feel ashamed, and sick to our stomachs.

We talked about it a lot of times during the years that followed. It was a defining moment in my life, one in which I began to recognize the abuse that can come with power and authority, and how cruel and thoughtless the actions of people can be, even when it's unintentional.

I understood it, because I lived it. Even just for that silly, insignificant little moment.

Damn, I never saw that rabbit coming...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Please, Make It Stop: Part 13

From all accounts--including a source I know pretty well-- TV's straight-talking exploiter of people with problems just trumped Oprah in a public display of arrogance.

According to several reports, Dr. Phil McGraw showed up to visit Britney Spears at the hospital in which she was undergoing evaluations for her most recent display of unusual behavior. This despite the fact that McGraw:


(a) wasn't invited by Spears or the hospital;
(b) has no therapeutic relationship with Spears;
(c) has no clinical privilege at the hospital;


After visiting with Spears for a few minutes, McGraw stated publicly:

"My meeting with Britney and some family members this morning in her room at Cedars leaves me convinced more than ever that she is in dire need of both medical and psychological intervention,' McGraw told the programs."

What are "the programs" to which McGraw made public statements about the health of a woman who is not his client?

Entertainment Tonight, and The Insider.

Dr. Phil just moved very close to Oprah on my Arrogant Celebs Who Think They Matter list.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Rescue Dawn

I like to think that faced with a live-or-die dilemma, I'd cowboy-up and show some grit. That's the real mark of humanity, isn't it? Staring down the event that caused the flight portion of our protective instinct to tingle, and successfully fight through incredibly poor odds to get it done.

Except I'm a sissy.

Sure, I'd fight like hell to help or save someone I loved. Even look at my kids wrong and I'll punch you in the mouth. Jump line in front of my wife at Kroger, it's me who's gonna complain. If some dire circumstance occurred that placed their safety in jeopardy, I'd do whatever it took to make things right. But place my health, safety or livelihood on the line?

I'll get to it later.

That's why the true-life inspired story of Dieter Dengler is so interesting to me. Played by Christian Bale, Lt. Dengler is a US Navy pilot who seems to sneer back at danger every time it stares him in the face. Testing fighter planes, shot down in the jungles of Vietnam, held for years in a POW camp, tortured physically and psychologically--none of it breaks Dengler. He's forever focused on his belief that everything will work out perfectly for him. That mindset not only keeps him sane, it likely sets up those opportunities that eventually do provide him with survival options.

Rescue Dawn is a fascinating study in how hope and optimism effect outcome. The movie slowly lets the characters develop, and allows the audience to feel connected to the prisoners Dengler lives with in the POW camp. Bale is very good--as always--as Dengler, but it's supporting actor Steve Zhan who really shines in this flick. Seen mostly in lighter fare during his career, Zhan is remarkable as POW Duane Martin. He keeps pace with Bale through the entire movie.

A blogpost or two ago I complained about not really getting action-driven flicks like the Bourne trilogy. Rescue Dawn is a terrific example of the type of movies I do get, and like: stories that rely on character development and dialogue to move the plot, and that leave me contemplative days later.

This movie isn't for everyone, but it's one of the best I've seen in months.

Friday, January 04, 2008

By The Numbers

82 ~ Number of stair- steps necessary to travel over in order to get to my office door

1 ~ Number of elevator buttons pushed today to allow me to reach my office floor

8 ~ Inches of hair recently trimmed from my head

0 ~ Percentage to which this haircut added to my "hotness quotient"

1.5 ~ My general mood on a 1-5 scale, (with 5 being "Excellent,") during the West Virginia Uglies.

11 ~ Number of deaths due to heroin use in my hometown in 2007

0 ~ Number of suspects in a current murder investigation in my hometown

20 ~ Consecutive days that WVU football and it's coaches have lead off the local news

24 ~ Number of movies I resolve to see in the theater in 2008

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Bourne Ultimatum

I'm well aware that the following comment will solidify my reputation for being un-hip and sometimes out of touch with popular culture. That's my reputation, especially with my pre-teen daughter's herd of friends, and I accept it. It's my cross to bear.

But, I don't like the Bourne movies. For the same reason I've never seen a Jet Li flick, or watched more than 10 minutes of a Bruce Lee movie. (Although I did dig The Green Hornet.)



The Bourne Ultimatum is, for me, like watching one of those kung-fu flicks from the 70s--the story is pushed along by movement and violence instead of an oral narrative.



Fast-paced scenes filled with martial arts can have a significant place in a movie, but for me, at least, it shouldn't be the crux of the movie.

But what do I know...I'm a geek.

I know there are serious fans of the Bourne trilogy. Write me why, in the comments section here or in an email. I'd like to put together a post sometime later on all the reasons the series is so popular.

Maybe I'll learn something.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

American Gangster

Some professionals make money the old fashioned way. Frank Lucas did it the Wal*Mart way.

Cutting out the middle man, Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) recognized that bringing pure heroin into the U.S. straight from an Asian source and dealing the "blue magic" himself would add up to millions. And he was right; in less than five years Lucas became a wealthy man, responsible for, by some estimates, 70% of the heroin in New York.

Ritchie Roberts, (played by Russell Crowe) the dogged police detective-turned-prosecutor eventually sets his sites on Lucas, and brings him to justice. The investigation is lengthy and dangerous, and uncovers deep rooted problems within police departments in New York and New Jersey.


Washington and Crow are remarkable in their roles. They share only two scenes together, but the 10 minutes or so they are on camera together is well worth the wait. The story is well told, with attention paid to the development of each role. With Gangster, the motivation of each character is integral, and the audience is given clear and detailed insight into what makes the central figures tick.

American Gangster isn't always easy to watch. The violence isn't gratuitous, but it's real. Most interesting, though, is that the fictional story may not be as interesting as the real-life relationship between the big-time drug dealer and the cop who brought him down.

Real life sometimes is stranger than fiction.