Thursday, February 26, 2009

Film Scenes That Matter: Oliver Twist

I think I'll send this clip over to the folks who manage my IRA.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Film Scenes That Matter: The Grapes Of Wrath

There's something familiar about this movie now. Something I couldn't connect with when I saw it many years ago.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

High School Quotes I Remember: Quote #11

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

" '83 rules! We're the last of the wild ones, baby!"

~ Jeff Jones, usually the first in our crowd to shout out, enthusiastically, our class motto. He'd yell it during sporting events, as we cruised by White's Funeral Home or after drinking too many beers at Salmon's Run.

I first met Jeff Jones the summer before 8th grade. A new junior high system was put in place that year, and hundreds of kids from various rural elementary schools were fed into the new, centralized, Summersville Junior High. Lots of us were trying out for the new school's football team that summer. We waited on the bleachers that early August morning, preparing for two-a-days to start.

We were scared, but pretended not to be.

Mustering up some courage, I started talking to a group of kids nearby. Jeff was in that crowd. He was socially outgoing, and had a quiet confidence that helped him stand out from the others. Jeff seemed to know who he was, even at that young age. He was a leader, and we all knew it.

From that day forward, through our senior graduation.

Jeff and I lost track of each other after graduation. We both moved away from our hometown, and I was too self-involved at the time to think about keeping up with old friends. Years later, when I tried to track Jeff down, his trail was too cold. There were rumors he moved to the Tennessee or Arkansas areas, but the few friends I kept in touch with didn't know much more than that. Last night--while, finally, reconnecting with mutual friends--I discovered Jeff died last summer from some rare disease.

I let another relationship end, because I had other things to do.

It may be that I'm reacting to this death because I'm growing older and facing the fact that death is inevitable, closer than at any other time in my life. But I don't think that's the cause of my angst. (I've lots of angst to keep track of, and I'm pretty good at recognizing the sources.) Very simply, I'm sorry I missed out on a relationship that I valued at one time, and one I should have worked harder to maintain.

Jeff and I weren't best friends, and there were even brief times we didn't like each other very much. That's the nature of teen friendships, I suppose. But we spent thousands of hours together over the years, and had a healthy appreciation and respect for each other. He was a pretty good example of our class motto: "The last of the wild ones!"

I miss him.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Live Bloggin' The 2009 Oscars

Because I'm Stoked:

I woke at 8:00am and started warming the cheese dip for the Oscar-show snacks. Even though the red carpet extravaganza starts early, I think I may have jumped the gun...

I caught Penelope Cruz's nominated role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona this weekend. It was a fine performance, but short. To be fair, a whoooole lotta dialogue was packed into her few minutes on screen.

Politics, gimmicky flicks and good old fashioned story-telling:
the list of nominations this year is as eclectic as I can recall.

The nominated movie I most regret not seeing this year: Doubt.

The Best Actor nominee I most hope wins: Richard Jenkins, star of The Visitor.

Word is, Angelina Jolie will be wearing a $20 million dollar necklace to the awards ceremony. No word yet on how valuable is the chain she has attached to Brad Pitt's choke collar.

The cheese is cooling, so I'm going back to bed. I need to get in a nap before the hoopla.

E!'s Countdown To The Red Carpet had WWE superstar John Cena giving a run-down on pro rasslin' moves as insight into the realism of The Wrestler. Wonder why E! couldn't find a real pro wrestler to give the tutorial?

The Red Carpet Edition:

Shouldn't Live From The Red Carpet producer and host Ryan Seacrest own Hollywood by now? The DJ/American Idol host/TV producer is this generation's Dick Clark. 'Cept, he already looks older than Clark.

Miley Cyrus' entrance seemed to draw the biggest excitement among the C-listers doing the early press walk. Typing that just made my stomach flop.

The list of nominees for acting roles contains personalities that seem pretty tame fare, so guessing which winner will have that Cuba Gooding, Jr. moment is gonna be rough. My prediction: Penelope Cruz, should she win, will go off into an incoherent rant during her speech. Bonus prediction: she will not thank Tom Cruise.

Dev Patel, from Slumdog Millionaire, has to be the most excited celeb at the awards tonight. His performance in the flick was sensational, and it's a shame he wasn't nominated for an acting award. He could have been in Brad Pitt's slot, and the quality of the nominee list wouldn't suffer.

Where's Gary Busey?!?

I can't help but imagine how horrible life would be if people videotaped and broadcast my trek to work every day, and illustrated on a "glamastrator" how well or how poorly my slacks and shirt fit that day.

Red Carpet Tip O' The Day: A full explanation on how Kate Winslet's hair style isn't retro but is, in fact, futuristic. Who knew?

Hey, God, if you exist: Please, please! let Mickey Rourke win Best Actor tonight, so I can hear him thank his recently deceased chihuahua, Loki. Rourke's necklace, an homage to the dog, is a harbinger of what the speech will entail!

The Show:

Wolverine is hosting!

Hugh Jackman's a good song and dance man. The opening bit ain't so bad.
"I'm Wolverine!" Ha! Awesome.

I like the new way of announcing the nominations, by talking about the actors and their performances. It's intimate, nice. Penelope Cruz wins and gives a speech filled with dignity and passion, and stays coherent, which means I lose my bet.

(By the way, my years-long crush on Goldie Hawn is now officially over.)

Film Geek Quote Of The Night: When Lavatory Love Story is announced as a nominated short film, Mrs. Film Geek asks aloud: "Is that movie about Larry Craig?"

Make-up and design awards: time to make myself a sandwich.

Ben Stiller effen rocks!! His Joaquin Phoenix bit was pure comic brilliance. I'm reminded of how funny Stiller was starring in his early TV series, The Ben Stiller Show, on FOX.

I'm so glad the Slumdog cinematographer won an Oscar. That movie was a wonderful work of visual art.

Heath Ledger wins! Health Ledger wins! A well deserved posthumous award--Ledger's Joker was the best part of The Dark Knight, and really took the audience into a twisted mind of a sociopath.

I agree with Bill Maher a lot when it comes to political and social issues, but goddamn it I can't stand the guy! I hate smug, and Maher's got a huge case of it. He reminds me of people who suddenly have an epiphany, then feel as though they are the only ones in the world who ever had the thought. To come out and whine about his documentary not getting nominated was just classless.

I'm shocked the visual effects Oscar went to Benjamin Buttons over The Dark Knight and Iron Man. Those two comic book flicks heavily relied on effects to tell the minute-by-minute story, while the effects in Buttons just made Brad Pitt de-age. Strange.

"Laaayyyydeeeee": Oh, that Jerry Lewis. I thought the Academy was gonna do a tribute to the rocker who sang Great Balls Of Fire. For those who know Jerry Lewis only from his Labor Day telethons, he was once one of the greatest comic actors ever. His movie, Visit To A Small Planet, is my all-time favorite of his flicks.

Every year, during the portion of the show where they show clips of those who have died, I find out someone passed on this year that I didn't know died. This year it was Richard Widmark. I knew Widmark mostly from television, but his role as Jim Bowie in The Alamo was a personal favorite. As a kid, I wanted to be able to use a knife like Bowie, and practiced all the time after I saw The Alamo. Widmark was terrific in the role.

Kate Winslet is the new Meryl Streep. Without the overblown ego.

[Crossing my fingers for Richard Jenkins.] Best Actor is: Sean Penn. Well, I haven't seen Milk yet, but the buzz about his work has been high. Penn is great in every role I've seen him take on, so I'm eager to see the film ASAP.

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire! It was this little movie's night, for sure. A brilliant movie, with a message of hope and optimism that we here in America could learn from. If we paid better attention.

I liked the scaled-back production this year. More intimate, less bling. Hope the trend continues in 2010.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Beautiful people,
Polyamory, and doubt
Make for a fine flick

Friday, February 20, 2009

Space Chimps

Although my paternal grandfather lived in central West Virginia during my pre-teen years, we weren't that close emotionally, and didn't see each other very often. He was an alright guy, I suppose, but didn't seem that interested in having a long-term relationship with my part of the family.

Distanced though we were, I really enjoyed visiting him at his home in Hico, West Virginia. It wasn't the family get-together that made me enjoy my visits. Nope, there were two other reasons. First, Grandpa had a stack of Playboys out in plain sight on a nightstand, and he never seemed to mind me sneaking a glance or two at the centerfolds. Even when I turned older, and those glances turned into stares, he never asked me to put them down and stop drooling. Secondly, my grandfather's cable system had channels that I didn't get with our basic antennae. It seemed like every Sunday we visited there was a Tarzan marathon on one of the stations. After checking out Miss July, I generally turned on the marathons and settled in.

Tarzan, Jane and Cheeta turned my average Sunday into the best day of the week!

That story, of course, has nothing to do with the movie Space Chimps, other than it was what I started thinking about when I quickly became bored with the really awful animated flick.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I didn't know the story of Walter Collins or the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, carried out in the California town during the late 1920s, before seeing Changeling. I knew only two things about the film: it was directed by Clint Eastwood, which made me eager to see it, and starred Angelina Jolie, which didn't.

Curiosity, and a healthy appreciation for all-things-Clint, won out.

Changeling is a fascinating story. After her young son, Walter, goes missing, Christine Collins (Jolie) searches for months before being informed by the Los Angeles police he's been found in the Mid-West. Immediately upon their reunion, Ms. Collins announces the boy is not her son. Dental records and physical dissimilarities add credibility to her story with everyone except the police, who find Ms. Collins to be a nuisance, mucking up their best public relations case in years.

The treatment of Ms. Collins by the LA police--and the incompetent way they conducted the investigation of her missing son--ultimately established new protocols and procedures for how police investigate crimes involving youth, and their powers to hold people suspected of having mental illness.

The story told by Changeling unfolds so well over the two-plus hours that I enjoyed it despite the fact it starred Angelina Jolie, who I consider the most over-rated actor today. Jolie let the story tell itself, and didn't over-shadow it. Visually, the movie is remarkable. Shot in modern day LA, the film was digitized to look like 1920s Wineville. The effect really works to help the audience believe the story. The "Best Art Direction" nomination of James Murakami and Gary Fettis is well deserved.

The visual technician should win an award soley for his effort to effectively remove all of Jolie's tatts!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nights In Rodanthe

The last time I saw a Richard Gere / Diane Lane team-up was Unfaithful, 2002's flick about how a married couple handles infidelity. In that movie, Lane has some hot scenes, and Gere kills co-star Olivier Martinez by bashing in his head with a large snowglobe.

Yep, Unfaithful was a pretty good movie.

Remind me: what was the name of this one, again?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The International

Fifteen minutes into The International, starring Clive Owen, I was confused. Something didn't feel right. I put down the popcorn, and leaned in toward Mrs. Film Geek's ear:

"This doesn't feel like a romantic comedy," I said. She shushed me, and kept looking at the 10-foot-tall rugged handsomeness of a desperate, pissed-off Clive Owen.

Twenty minutes into the flick, I suddenly realized I hadn't seen one of the movie's major co-stars yet. I found that even more strange. I leaned in again:

"Where's Julia Roberts? Don't you think it's strange she hasn't been in a scene yet?"

That fact, plus the very serious mood of what I was sure to be romedy had my head spinning. I was so confused, I hadn't yet opened my box of Goobers.

"Listen, you're thinking of Duplicity. That stars Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, but doesn't open until next month. This is a different movie, a thriller. Now hush, and watch the movie."

And I did. And through my newly opened eyes I watched Clive Owen, in all his rugged handsomeness, piece together an international mystery that comes strikingly close to how I suspect the modern political world is managed. The International was smart, well-acted and timely.

And very, very serious.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It Makes My Ears Bleed!

A return to one of my favorite posts, from last year:

One of the most annoying aspects of this time of year for me is hearing people say "Valentymes" rather than "Valentines" Day. I hear it everywhere, and people from every walk of life seem to lapse into saying it during moments of excitability.

Huh? What? Youcantellme, c'mon!

Tell me, whatyougettin'forValentymes?."

The only consoling factor for me is that this annoyance ends on February 15th. Unlike my year-long struggle with people from Putnam County, WV, who regularly pronounce their county "Putman." It makes me want to drive a stake through their hearts.


I love it when two different rants find common ground.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Zack And Miri Make A Porno

Seth Rogen Week at The Film Geek's house was capped off with Zack And Miri Make A Porno, written and directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Kevin Smith. Brave enough to use any method necessary to deliver a joke or tell a story, Smith uses the modern porn biz to give the audience a new perspective on romance.

Zack And Miri is funniest during the first half of the flick, as two platonic roommates create an adult film script, then put together the cast and crew needed to make the movie. The film slows a bit once the two realize they have genuine affection for each other, and are forced to sort through the usual confusing emotions that come with love. Improvised supporting spots by Brandon Routh and Justin Long are side-splitting-ly funny. Smith's Possee members Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson are excellent. Craig Robinson, who is seen in several Rogen flicks, may have the funniest lines of the film.

Watching Zack and Miri reminded me of those years in high school, when I'd hide my cache of X-rated videos throughout the house, brave enough to pull one out only when the family drove off to visit grandma or shop at Kroger. My Top 5 Favorite Places To Hide An X-Rated Video was:

~ In the way-back part of my Dad's closet, several feet from where he kept his shoes. I figured if he always kept his shoes at that arms-length portion of the closet, he'd never have a reason to look deeper, and find my stash. As far as I know, he never did.

~ The unfinished attic. No one ever went into the attic except me, to read comic books once or twice a week. Up the ladder, to the right as far as my arm could reach under a box was a great hiding spot.

~ In my socks drawer.

~ In my brother's socks drawer. I let him watch some now and again. He never ratted on me.

~ In plain sight, on top of the TV with "Independent Film" or "Documentary" written on the label. It was as good as hidden.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Taking The Plunge

When I decided to participate in the 2009 Polar Plunge, I didn't consider how cold the water was going to be. I thought about a lot of other things: helping raise money for Special Olympics felt good; meeting a group of West Virginia bloggers that had organized for the event would be fun; spending a day outside my normal routine would be refreshing.

But, I didn't even consider the cold water.

I'm a tough guy. A former farm kid. I've slopped hogs during blizzards, and fed hay to horses during ice storms. I've spent some time in the elements, and the elements didn't kill me. They only made me stronger.

As the line that led to the platform from which plungers plunged into the iced-up water shortened, I heard the MC announce the water temperature to be a near-freezing 34 degrees. I leaned forward and whispered to Bill Lynch, who was standing just in front of me:

"I'm starting to feel a real sense of dread."

"Embrace it," he said.

I laughed, and then I did. And then, a few minutes later, I jumped into the water. Fully submerged, I remember thinking that the cold water hurt more than I expected it would.

And then I thought: "I hope when I surface, I'm not going to cry."

Yeah, I'm a tough guy...

I'll be there in 2010. The event is fun, and the goal is more important than a few moments of discomfort. Plus, it gave me an opportunity to get to know folks I might not meet otherwise. Hanging out for much of the day with a bunch of West Virginia bloggers --who raised about $300.00 for the cause--was really enjoyable.

(And so was the hot shower I took when I arrived home!)

Saturday, February 07, 2009


The Wanted DVD rested on my TV stand for weeks. I went out of my way to watch anything but the flick during that time, because I just knew I'd hate it.

Curving bullets.

Slow-mo action telling the story instead of a solid verbal narrative.

Angelina Jolie.

You know what I mean: even Morgan Freeman in a supportive role couldn't get me stoked up for this flick. But, I was wrong. Wanted was awesome, despite featuring the most over-rated female actor working today.

Much of the reason Wanted works is its lead, James McAvoy. The protagonist, his Wesley Gibson is doubly cursed: he's a schlep, and he's self-aware enough to recognize it.

A loser who knows he's a loser.

Now, that's something with which I can identify.

See, I can't identify with bullets that curve, an army of explosive mice or hanging all day with a beautiful tattooed chick that kills for a living. I can't wrap my brain around assassins who have preternatural abilities, or looms that determine who lives or dies.

But James McAvoy is so good at his nerd-to-hero transition that I can believe it. The surreal plot is possible after all. Like McAvoy, I too could transform my life. I can rise from this Lazy-Boy, put down the laptop and transform myself into something greater than I am now!

Wonder if I can cause Doritos to curve from outta the bag to my mouth...

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Lazarus Project

The skinny: Paul Walker is an ex-con / devoted dad and husband / reformed good-guy pulled back into a life of crime by his loser of a brother. Executed for his crime, Walker's character is brought back to life and housed in a psychiatric facility, where attempts to rehabilitate him conflict with his strong desire to reconnect with his family.

The bottom line: Walker's character should have remained dead, rather than be brought back to life at the 20 minute mark. It would have made for a more interesting movie.