Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Top 5: Actors Who Are Overrated

C'mon, you've had that feeling too.

Even while you're shelling out $7.50 for the ticket and more than $20 for buttered corn and other concessions, you're suspicious about the movie. Not that you won't have a good time with your date, or because you figure you could be doing something more productive. Nope, you're suspicious of the flick because you know, deep down in your soul, that the movie's star won't live up to your expectations.

Way too many leads these days are overrated. Here's My Top 5: Actors Who Are Overrated.

Tom Hanks: Movies starring Tom Hanks are like a box of chocolates; one never knows what one will get. Although brilliant in Philadelphia, Hanks' everyman shtick comes across as stiff and distant to me in most all of his other roles.

Keanu Reeves: Seriously, why is this guy still working?

Matthew McConaughey: OK, now I understand why Reeves is still working. He's getting the parts that require eye candy looks and the minimal ability to act. The rest of the gigs go to McConaughey.

Jack Nicholson: Any contract with Nicholson must read: "Cock eye-brow, utter vulgarity, tell a younger chick you wanna fuck her, go home." The guys been a stereotype since the late 70s.

John Travolta: Proving year after year that an actor can live off the reputation of one or two great movies in a career.

Who's on your list?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Can't Complain, But Sometimes I Still Do

For a guy who talks for a living, I sure struggle with small talk. Although I'm aware of it and I'm getting better at it, talking about the weather is still difficult for me.

Take this morning as an example, as I dropped my son off at his day-care:

Me [to the day care lady]: "Hey, how are ya?"

Her: "Hi. Not bad, I can't complain."

Me: " Sorta like Joe Walsh."

Her [confused look]: "I'm sorry?"

Me: "You know, like Joe Walsh. From the Eagles. Well, this was after the Eagles. And after Barnstorm. And, of course, a long time after the James Gang."

Her: "I'm not sure what you mean..."

Me: "Yeah, you know: [half-singing] 'I can't complain, but sometimes I still do.' He was making fun of himself, saying he is living the good life and shouldn't complain, but still does."

Her: "I think I've heard that song. Maybe."

Me [at this moment, recognizing the awkwardness]: "It's a fun song..."

And I turned an high-tailed it out as fast as possible.


Turn it up. Loud! Have a great Tuesday, and don't complain.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lars And The Real Girl

Have I mentioned before how much I admire the work of Ryan Gosling?

(Except for that whole New Mickey Mouse Club period) Gosling seems smart about the parts he chooses, taking roles that plumb emotional depths and which explore themes off the mainstream. I tend to think he's this generations Pacino, De Niro and Hoffman. In talent, and in his willingness to work the craft.

In Lars And The Real Girl, Gosling hits another home run as a lonely, highly eccentric young man who uses a sex doll to fill his need for companionship...

Nah, that description doesn't really do the film justice. Let me try again.

In Lars And The Real Girl, Gosling is brilliant in his portrayal of a man with some sort of disorder--perhaps a trauma-induced delusional disorder, perhaps some form of autism--that causes him to disconnect from real humans, but relate realistically to a sex doll. This ultimately helps him...

Nope, that one sucks too. I'll try once more. As always, I appreciate your patience.

Lars And The Real Girl tells the story of a young man suffering from severe isolation, and from a disconnect with his community. He's more than eccentric; he struggles with connecting with other people, including his family. Although many believe he doesn't want to interact with them, he does. In fact, he desperately wants to interact with others, but it's extremely difficult for him to do. Socialization is painful, and he doesn't seem to understand the subtle rules that go along with interacting with humans.

To reduce his growing anxiety, he buys a realistic-looking sex doll, and creates--and lives within--the delusion that they have a romantic relationship.

The genuine acceptance of his small-town community allows the delusion to progress like a natural relationship. That acceptance--coupled with the social interaction practice Lars gets in the process--allows Lars the skills necessary to evolve into a more functional adult.

Whew...that was hard. Really, anytime one uses the term "sex doll" do discuss a movie, eyes are gonna role.

I understand. Really.

Lars And The Real Girl isn't' about the sex doll. It's about individuality, acceptance, isolation, our social structure and the human need for touch. It's compelling and complex, tragic and poignant. It's funny, and it's dramatic. In the end, it's brilliant.

And it's one of the best movies I've seen in years.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dan In Real Life

I wish Jeffrey Sines had remembered.

Those important things in life: the first time your kid colors a picture for you, working hard to stay in the lines; that scream of excitement that happens immediately after you yell out, "Hope in the van, kids, we're going to Austin's for ice cream"; or the pride that comes when your daughter ties her shoe by herself for the first time.

Dan In Real Life is about that. A movie that points out that, sometimes, we adults become too fixed on our own problems, and we forget to notice and appreciate the small events that really are the most important in our lives.

I'm guilty of it. So are you.

Dan isn't a great movie, but it's effective.

Remember those small moments while they last.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wonder How Much This Stamp Will Cost? Part 2

Dear God:

I'm troubled, frankly, and I don't know where to turn for support.

While I don't really believe in your existence--at least your existence as it's described in the good book--I need a place today to vent some anguish and angst I'm feeling. A place to contemplate life, and the devastating loss of it. A place to pause between the stressors of work and the stressors I feel as I watch my community grow into something it shouldn't be.

Since I had this blog and all, I figured this may be the place to do it. And although I don't really believe in you, please don't consider it disrespectful that my letter is addressed to you.

I'm hopeful, after all.

You may have heard about what now appears to be a murder-suicide that happened in Barboursville, West Virginia earlier this week.
It's been in all the papers. It seems a 38-year-old Barboursville man told his two daughters, ages 10 and 5, that they all were going on an impromptu vacation. He packed them up and placed them in the car, closed up the garage door and started the engine.

According to reports, he and the girls died quickly from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Although "crushed" isn't the best word to describe how I feel, it works. I didn't know the family, and never met the young girls. But I'm crushed. Overwhelmed by the loss of innocence and potential, and the tragedy that is-- too often-- the end result of despair.

I want to he hopeful.

Maybe I can't get this story out of my head because I have daughters of similar ages. I dunno. It could be that I'm just pissed off, knowing the trust that should exist naturally between children and their fathers is often violated. Maybe I'm mad that you, God, don't exist. If you did exist, you could stop this from happening. Before kids are hurt. Before lives are lost.

I just can't find my hope.

Not today, anyway.


The Film Geek

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fresh Ground Pepper

Someone keeps stealing the salt and pepper shakers from my office break room...

It's not that big a deal, I suppose, but I sure miss those seasonings. I love salt, particularly, and every once in a while--especially on a
big ol' slaw dog--I love lots of pepper.


Yesterday I mentioned the Seasoning Thief to the receptionist, asking who she thinks may be the culprit. Swear to god, three shakers have been taken in the last month! I'm so angry about it, that if my blood was at it's usual saltiness, I might have some sort of stroke.

Thankfully, I've been salt-less for a while.

Anyway, I said to the lady at the front desk:
"At least this time the Seasoning Thief left the pepper."

Her reply? "What do you mean?"

"Well, he or she took the salt, but left the pepper." I not only have seen the pepper shaker sitting beside the microwave for the past week or so, I'd used it on several occasions. For my soup, on a hot dog from the cafeteria where I work and sprinkled over a garden salad I'd picked up on a day I pretended to eat healthy.

The pepper shaker looked like one of these.

It didn't shake out easily, and I presumed it was just all gunked up. I had to shake it. Real. Hard.

The front desk lady looked confused, and I suddenly realized I was involved in a conversation I didn't fully understand.

Happens all the time.

I walked next door, picked up the pepper shaker and walked back to the front desk. I showed her the shaker, while giving her a how-dare-you-doubt-me glare.

"Oh," she said softly. "You mean the Brita filter replacement."

Excuse me. I think I got a piece of charcoal in my teeth...

Monday, April 21, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood gives an intimate, revealing insight into Americanized capitalism, and the toll that greed and dishonor can have on people and relationships.

Independent silver miner Daniel Plainview shows dogged determination to make it big with his small mining outfit in early 20th century California, putting in long hours for little pay-off until he accidentally stumbles onto an oil well. Losing employees along the way to poor oversight or to dangerous conditions, Plainview, along with his adopted son, becomes wealthy in the oil biz by: (1) doing the job more quickly and effectively than others, and (2) lying, scamming and aggression.

Just like modern times!

Daniel Day-Lewis earned the Oscar he won for his portrayal of Plainview. His character is complex, and carries the movie. (In fact, he may well be in each and every scene.) The cinematography is the best I've seen since A River Runs Through It. The dialogue is rich and authentic, and the supporting actors perform well.

But I couldn't help noticing that as Plainview becomes wealthier, he becomes more vile. More paranoid, and withdrawn. Less human. His pursuit of wealth ultimately costs him far greater than the material rewards he reaped.

Just like modern times.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Bucket List

The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as terminally ill men finding meaning and fulfillment in the last months of their lives, brought back some tough memories for me.

Memories about my grandfather, and his own death bed wishes.

My grandpa was a simple man, and very dedicated to ensuring my grandmother would be taken care of after his death. He was scheduled for open heart surgery--and this was in the mid-80s, when the procedure was not quite so common, and the outcomes not quite so positive. He was scared, and he was certain he was going to die.

The night before the surgery, he spoke to me privately in his hospital room:

"Promise me you'll look after your MaMaw," he said. Tears were starting to well up in his eyes. "She trusts everybody, and people will take advantage of her."

"I promise," I said. But I said it just to make him feel better. I didn't have the means or the ability to protect her. Hell, I lived more than a hundred miles away.

"Really, the neighbor kids [who, he thought, routinely stole from him] will tell her they need money for clothes and food, and she'll give it to them. You have to promise me you'll keep her from being taken advantage of."

"I will, I promise." We both burst out crying, uncontrollably. I didn't want to lose the one person in my life who seemed to understand me. He was scared of dying not for himself, but because of the void that his passing would cause for those he loved.

I remember that evening as one of the first times I told him I loved him, and really understood what that meant.

He didn't die immediately; he died about three weeks after the surgery, from a blood clot passing through something it wasn't supposed to.

I really enjoyed The Bucket List, particularly Morgan Freeman's performance. But as I watched the characters mark off high-end, expensive activities from their travels around the globe, I kept making comparisons to my grandpa's very simple death experience. While Nicholson and Freeman sought to reach inner peace through extravagance, my grandpa reached his through his concern for those he loved.

I like his path better.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

High School Quotes I Remember: Quote # 3

(I make no judgements about content. I'm simply purging some of the clutter that's been inside my head since 1983.)

"Marc, your behavior is exasperating!"

~Mrs. McMillion, my 11th grade English teacher, to me during class.

During one particularly boring English class, I started up some nonsense with Mrs. McMillion mostly for my entertainment. Her comment piqued my interest; not knowing what "exasperating" was, I quickly checked it out in the dictionary. I consider this the moment I became interested in language.

Monday, April 14, 2008

In The Valley Of Elah

In The Valley Of Elah, a remarkable film starring Tommy Lee Jones, examines the crux of the long-term effects of what, I expect, is a necessary evil of the military lifestyle: the devaluing and dehumanization of the enemy (or perceived enemy), and how that process effects soldiers as they re-enter civilian society.

Jones stars as patriotic ex-military police officer Hank Deerfield. Deerfield's son, Mike, is active military who has recently seen action in the war in Iraq. After returning to the US, Mike goes AWOL. The elder Deerfield travels to the military base to investigate the disappearance on his own, and finds the ultimate tragedy. The discovery shakes Deerfield's deepest held beliefs and convictions, and his perspective on the process of war.

I'm unable to let go of this movie, and find it difficult to write about.

Inspired by the true story of Richard Davis, In The Valley Of Elah is ultimately about how soldiers change during the course of active duty. How they manage to cope with constant stress; sometimes through the dehumanization of the enemy, sometimes by dehumanizing their peers and sometimes by dehumanizing themselves.
Certainly Mike Deerfield--and the real life Richard Davis--did so. He changed, and those around him changed, into something they weren't when they enlisted.

And it cost him his life.

In The Valley Of Elah stays away from the politics of whether or not war is necessary, and focuses on the effects war has on individuals. It's a terrific movie about a issue more people should be thinking about.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

High School Quotes I Remember: Quote # 2

(I make no judgements about content. I'm simply purging some of the clutter that's been inside my head since 1983.)

"Restin' !"

~ Tom "Bake" Neff, a forward on my high school basketball team.

During a time out, the Coach couldn't locate Bake in the huddle, and began yelling for him. After screaming Bake's name three or four times, the Coach spies him lying several yards away, relaxing on his side with a basketball under his head like a pillow, and askes: "What the hell are you doing, Neff?"

Thursday, April 10, 2008


It might have been the hectic day I had, I dunno. It could also have been the slow pacing of the movie Atonement, it's hypnotic score or the way the movie is lit. But my eyelids were starting to droop.

"Do you like the movie?" Mrs. Film Geek asked, herself rivited to the screen about a quarter of the way into the flick.

"Sure," I replied. I think.

I moved over to the love seat where I generally watch movies I know are gonna put me to sleep. The love seat's comfortable, after all. Soft, and warm and cozy...

I felt her hand on my shoulder. "It's over," she said. "It's time to go to bed."

"Was the movie good?" I crossed my fingers and hoped I hadn't missed a masterpiece.

"Yep. Loved it. It was great."

Good. So was my nap.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Guess Who Else Digs P B & C

My thanks to Moneytastesbad for lining up this celebrity endorsement.

"I'm a kiss-stealin', wheeling' dealin', jet-flyin', limousine-ridin' peanut butter chocolate ice cream eatin' son-of-a-gun. And you can be too, if you vote here.


And despite what you may have read, I'm told The Super Boy Scout loves him an occassional scoop as well!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Vote For The Children!

As friends of mine have looked over the votes cast so far in the DBET, they call up and express their best wishes. Usually they talk a while before getting to the crux of their call, which is always: "Film Geek, can your flavor--Peanut Butter Chocolate--win the tournament?" As they wring their hands in anticipation, and calculate the odds that seem, at least for today, to be against me, I answer:

"Yes, we can."

Is it possible, they ask, that sweet chocolate goodness mixed with the chunky, chewy delight of peanut butter can garner enough votes to win? Can the newfangled concoction of PB & C beat the old-standard tradition? Can we really win this election? Each time, I answer:

"Yes, we can."

Some suggest the time frame is too short for victory. With the deadline of 8pm Thursday looming, some have advised that PB & C should simply fold up the tent and abandon the race. It's too difficult, they say. There's too much to do and little time to do it. Can we continue to hope against hope that PB & C will overcome significant odds to be the victor? Again, I say:

"Yes, we can."

Yes, we can. If you will vote with me, that is. If you vote here, and vote often!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Martian Child

When I was in 5th grade, Kirby Jones was in 7th grade. When I left elementary school for the bright lights of 8th grade junior high, Kirby Jones was still in the 7th grade.

Kirby exemplified, to me at least, the concept of eccentric. He talked to his pencils, played mostly alone on the playground and rarely conversed with his classmates in any meaningful, socially-connected way. As I recall, Kirby wasn't considered aloof or dangerous. He was just considered weird.

Like the kid in the
Martian Child.

Dennis, (the Martian child, played nicely by Bobby Coleman) is a severely abused kid adopted time and again by various well-meaning adults who, after realizing his intense emotional needs, return him (time and time again) to the foster center. David, (John Cusack) a widower looking to fill the hole in his life, adopts Dennis, and refuses to give up on the kid.

Like lots of message movies, this one ends with both David and Dennis learning something about themselves as they learn about each other.

The Martian Child is an average film in all the areas people judge about in what makes for a good flick.

It's predictable, could use more character development and wraps up a little too neatly at the end.

The movie is important for pointing out, however, that our society tends to dehumanize and devalue those among us who won't--or can't--conform. Live in your own box that's just outside the larger box most call home, and people get more than a little nervous around you.

People even get scared, and they'll shun you.

It's a shame.

We should be celebrating the Kirby Jones' of the world.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Charlton Heston

October 4, 1924 - April 5, 2008

Whether you loved Heston (who starred in some of the most important movies of the 20th century) or disliked him (because of his politics, or because maybe he sometimes over-acted), there is no denying his iconic legacy in the development of film during the last 50 years.

Friday, April 04, 2008

What You Talkin' 'Bout, Thrilla?

The DBET Ice Cream War is nearing an end... Flavors "Vanilla" and "Peanut Butter Chocolate" are going head to head in the finals.

You and I both know the only good vanilla is vanilla that's dipped in chocolate. Like those old-fashioned dipped cones from DQ that harden after being dipped in the goo.

Peanut butter chocolate, however, is lip-smacking good! All on it's own.

You can eat this:

Or, you can lick on this:

Get out and rock the vote!

Vote for PB & C here.

UPDATE: PB & C has it's own political ad, here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

We Own The Night

Brothers Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) and Joe Grusinsky (Mark Wahlberg) are the sons of a larger-than-life father, big city Police Chief Bert Grusinsky (played by Robert Duvall). Both struggle in how they respond to their old man's expectations: Bobby is drawn to the thrill of the night life, while younger Joe follows in his Dad's footsteps and becomes a respected police officer.

Set in 1988 New York City, We Own The Night tells the story of brothers estranged by ideology and interest who become united by a common--and urgent--crisis.


The relationship between them can be so complicated. Many times, the complications are driven by pride. And needlessly so.

Several years ago my sister divorced from her first husband. As a result of the divorce--and for reasons too personal to go into here-- my brother became angry at my sister and for quite a long time refused to speak to her.

One night, after a family get-together, I recognized that our sister's children were beginning to notice our brother's behavior. As the oldest sibling I felt some obligation to help solve the problem, so I told my brother his rudeness was affecting our nieces and nephews, and it should stop.

He immediately cut me out of his life, and has spoken to me only a couple of times since, when I've initiated a conversation. I think the last sentence he said to me even ended with the phrase:

"I'd like to take you out back and beat your ass."

I found out that he was in the hospital a few weeks ago, with a sudden bout of pneumonia. So I called him up, and wished him well. I was sort of hoping the call I made would jump-start the relationship, sort of like what happened in We Own The Night. I ended up talking to him by telephone a couple of times while he was hospitalized, but haven't spoken to him since he returned home.

I'm kinda waiting now for him to call me. Like I said: needless complications driven by pride.

It's a shame, all around.

At least things turned out well in We Own The Night. Too bad it was just an average movie.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

High School Quotes I Remember: Quote # 1

(I make no judgements about content. I'm simply purging some of the clutter that's been inside my head since 1983.)

"I musta et 16 bowls of that shit this mornin'!"

~ Mark Hanshaw, after vomiting up his breakfast of Corn Flakes on the first session of two-a-day football practice in August.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

To Be The Man

I've been a fan of pro rasslin' since I was a kid. In fact, some of my best memories are of me and my brother stretched out on the floor of our living room on Saturdays, cheering on The Four Horseman and debating whether or not Lex Luger belonged in that group of extraordinary showmen.

For the record, he didn't.

There was something special about watching Ric Flair wrestle. He was the show; the man gave everything he had to give each and every time he stepped into a ring, then later upped the ante with his unparalleled work on the mic. The robes, the hair, the 60 minute match, the "Whoo-hooo!: Flair recognized what every good carny knows: put out the extra effort to give fans what they want, butts will go into the seats and you draw more money.

And Flair drew more than anyone back in the day.

More money, more blood and more respect than any other worker.

For the first time ever, I bought a WrestleMania pay-per-view Sunday evening. The overall show was fun, but I bought it because I knew it was Flair's retirement match. His final lose-and-you-must-retire match, against Shawn Michaels. Just before he pinned Flair, Michaels broke kayfabe by whispering: "I'm sorry. I love you."

Then, he kicked Flair in the head.

It was a fitting tribute for a legend.

I wiped a tear after the three-count. The tear was mostly for Flair, but part of it was because I miss stretching out in the living room with my brother, dodging brain busters and trying to counter the figure four leg-lock.

"To be the man, you gotta beat the man."

Rasslin' will never be the same.