Sunday, January 31, 2010

Inglourious Bastards

I gave up on Quentin Tarantino years ago, sometime after he produced Hostel. While I thought Reservoir Dogs was brilliant and Pulp Fiction inspired, later works seemed more and more self-indulgent.

And I hate self-indulgence in art.

Artists who really labor over their craft, and who aspire to improve and progress don't have time for self-indulgence. Like blacksmiths, they toil over small details that make the whole product better. It's when artists become famous, wealthy and sassy that they have time to paint self-portraits. The art shifts to them, because they think the consumers of art want a peek behind the curtain.

Tarantino loves himself. And that effects the outcome of his work. He's that guy at the party who talks about himself all night long, trying desperately to fill the conversation with inside jokes and clever banter that makes sense only to him. The discussion is always and only about him. The fact you're standing there face-to-face is irrelevant.

I always walk away from that guy at the party. Just like I usually walk away from Tarantino.

So, it was with some trepidation that I watched Inglourious Bastards. While I expected tight dialogue and a fast-paced plot--those qualities are nearly always present in a Tarantio flick--I anticipated an immature perspective on the Holocaust, a subject which should be treated with mature reflection and respect.

I was overwhelmingly surprised.

The fictional story of multiple plots to kill Hitler during the Nazi occupation of France was compelling, complex, and interesting. Tarantino's technique in telling the story, especially his use of background music during scenes of most importance, made for a remarkable viewing experience. The acting of Christoph Waltz as Col. Landa really sold this film to me, while Brad Pitt's Lt. Raine was the perfect embodiment of the American perspective on the war.

I admit it: I loved this movie. God help me, I'm paying attention to Tarantino again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Whatever Happened To...Ursula Hayden

While the World Wrestling Federation was cozying up to the rock n' roll world, telling kids to take their vitamins and shootin' their superstars up with steroids, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling were putting on a show of their own. And one of the main stars was Babe, The Farmer's Daughter.

Ursula Hayden, who played Babe, was a regular on G.L.O.W., and one of the shows biggest stars in its early run. Here she is in a match with another wrestler.

The intro is cheesy, the character is sexist, and the wrestling is bad.

But for some reason, I couldn't stop watching the damn show!

According to several Internet sites, Hayden had a brief stint with Powerful Women of Wrestling, and now owns the newest incarnation of G.L.O.W., operated out of the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Someone Should Protect Andy Dick From Himself!

If Andy Dick can't get in and out of a weekend in Huntington, West Virginia without getting arrested, he's hit rock bottom.

WSAZ has raw video of the comedian being transported by the police, but Andy ain't sayin' dick.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Forgotten Silver

My friend Spike Nesmith has repeatedly, over the years, asked me to check out some of the early films of Peter Jackson. "He's more than hobbits and King Kong," I'm told, to which I politely chuckle. In my world, Jackson is the maker of blockbusters dependent upon computer generated magic and make-up.

I read the Lord Of The Rings, after all. I don't want some D&D nerd fucking with how it looks in my head.

And then I saw Forgotten Silver.

Jackson's 1995 made-for-TV production tells the story of Colin McKenzie, a forgotten pioneer of film technique and production.

It was a teen McKenzie who first developed sound and color film, and who created inventive camera techniques while shooting his silent epic, Salomi.

After finding McKenzie's films locked away in a chest inside an old shed, Jackson and a team of filmmakers document the restoration of McKenzie's work so that it might receive the attention and honor it deserves.

There is one swerve: not a single frame of what looks like a documentary is real. It's simply Jackson's homage to inventive creators of the medium, and to silent film and movie making.

Forgotten Silver is more than entertaining. It's tightly written, well produced and never sells out on the documentary concept. It's simply brilliant.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Perfect Getaway

I used to be scared of traveling.

Although I had to do it quite a lot for work, I was a bit neurotic about traveling to far away places and hanging out with the locals. On a trip to San Diego in the early 90s I stayed in my hotel room between conference events and trips out for meals. Mrs. Film Geek--who loved to travel--was with me. She couldn't understand why I was scared to leave the room. I wasn't quite sure myself. I rationalized that it was my inexperience with travel as a youth that made me nervous about meeting strangers in strange locals.

But I was wrong.

A Perfect Getaway is the perfect illustration of my fears about travel. It's not a perfect movie, but it's an enjoyable popcorn flick with a terrific swerve.

I pretend to be better with travel now, but on the inside I'm still pretty fearful. Steve Zahn's flick didn't do much to alleviate that anxiety.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Lovely Bones

While I can't comprehend the emotional turmoil that must result from the death of one's child, I can imagine such an event--especially if the death was caused by a violent act-- would turn one's world upside down. I imagine life, for me at least, would then forever be surreal; things would move at a slower pace, I'd struggle to maintain relationships, and an obsessive focus on my child would rule my life.

Although the plot of
The Lovely Bones focuses on the murder of 14-year-old Susie Salmon, the film is best when it explores the continuum of obsession. The murderer of the young girl, played masterfully by Stanley Tucci, is driven by his obsession. Susie's father, before and after her death, is consumed by an obsessive attention to detail. Director Peter Jackson seems to be commenting on the fact that obsession in and of itself is neither good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. Rather, it's how we humans channel our obsession that can be a problem.

The Lovely Bones boasts beautiful and effective cinematography, and incredible acting by Stanley Tucci. The story is difficult to watch, and contains a few small scenes that make it less than perfect (Susan Sarandon and the character she portrays has no place in this film). But it's a powerful movie, with powerful performances.

And you'll hug your kid afterwards just a little bit tighter.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Ummm . . . My Bad

I exited the men's public restroom at work, and walked the fifty yards or so back to my office. Engrossed in my work, I opened some mail and created files for several minutes until I realized my iPhone was not in sight.

I'd left it in the stall!

An iPhone is a remarkable piece of technology when one has to use a public bathroom for an extended period of time. I use mine to check email, read FML and text
friends who have made the decision to reduce their blogging efforts.

All from within the comfort of the small cubicle and locked door.

Knowing for certain I'd left the iPhone on top of the toilet paper dispenser, I high-tailed it (pun intended) from my office back to the restroom to get it before anyone else could go into the stall.

I was too late. I opened the restroom door to see my former stall door was closed.

Locked. With a set of big brown shoes under the door.

Desperate, I knocked. "Hello," I said. " I think I left my cell phone in the stall. Would you look, and slide it under the door?"

No answer. I knocked again.

"Hey . . . I left my iPhone in this stall. Do me a favor and slide it under the door, okay?"


Now certain the guy inside the stall intended to steal my iPhone, I grabbed the top of the wall and pulled myself up in order to see over. Sitting there-- doing his business-- was a man I'd never met. And he had a horrified look on his face.

"Hey, listen . . . I left my cell phone in this stall. Slide it to me, and I'll leave you alone." The man stared at me for a moment, opened his mouth awkwardly and said:

"No speak English."

"Cell telephono," I said in a desperate attempt. He looked confused, and shook his head.

I raced back to my office, determined to catch the guy before he zipped up and zipped out of the stall with my iPhone. I borrowed a phone from a friend, planning to go back to the restroom, call my number and catch the man red handed with my iPhone.

My friend wanted to ensure she had my number saved in her phone, so she pulled it up and hit "call." In a second or two, I heard my familiar ring. . .

. . . under the pile of mail on my desk.

I closed my door and worked incognito for the rest of the day.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Pimpin' For Big Tobacco

Participants at a recent open meeting on a proposed smoking ban in Cabell County, West Virginia, came out in style!

Photo by Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch