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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Balls of Fury 

Balls of Fury is the latest and least of the quasi-sport sports movies. Its cast is a who’s-who of comedians the crazy kids like—you’ll spend much of your time whispering to your friends, “hey, isn’t that --?” And yes, I can confirm for you now: that is the guy from Office Space and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Diedrech Bader). Yes, that’s the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). Yes, that is the ubiquitous Patton Oswalt. Yes, that is the guy who played Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). Yes, that is the sportscaster from Anchorman (David Koechner). And, finally, yes, that is the Reno 911 guy (Thomas Lennon), and one of the writers of the film.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Mr. Bean's Holiday 

This may be the best gig on earth. I see movies before their release, for free, and am then guaranteed an audience for my thoughts on them. Due to the prominence of Dallas (my city) in the movie distribution market, I get a pretty good selection on any given week; it’s not all Brett Ratner films around here. Thank god for that. So, yeah, this is a pretty sweet gig, and I happily do it for free.

But sometimes...

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Marcel Duchamp: More Punk Rock than You 

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Tonsure (Marcel Duchamp), 1921
Photograph by Man Ray, who come to think of it is also more punk rock than you.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

In other news, the sun will rise tomorrow. 

Psychology prof conducts study that restates the nakedly obvious.

Films that earn awards and praise from reviewers tend to be R-rated and based on a true story or a prize-winning play or novel, says professor Dean Simonton. The original author or the director usually have written the screenplay.

Big-budget blockbusters — whether they're comedies, musical, sequels or remakes — don't ordinarily draw acclaim, Simonton found. Neither do summer releases, PG-13 movies, movies that open on thousands of screens or ones that have enormous box office numbers in their first weekend.


This is fascinating stuff, and I'm glad that someone whose education probably cost six figures is dedicating valuable time to "discovering" what any studio's research wing -- or anyone with even passing acquaintance with the business of movies -- could tell him in about 10 minutes.

For good measure, he makes note of statistical anomalies that are also, well, glaringly obvious.

"All these things are just statistical relationships — there are always exceptions to every finding you have," Simonton said. "You'll have a film that really shouldn't have success but they have something quirky going for them ... `My Big Fat Greek Wedding,' it's just a quirky thing.


My guess is that "something quirky" would be an original voice telling a good story that you're not finding in the other movie houses, but hey -- that's just me. I tend to think of movies as an actual art form first, not a mathematical equation. So you know I'm just asking for trouble.

To round it off, the article's writer nabs some quotes from "awards expert" Tom O'Neil (and I would dearly love to see the criteria for such an honorarium, because I could use a good laugh) about the deviation between what movies get awarded the big Oscars and what movies actually rate the highest among critics for a given year. It would be adorable if O'Neil's quotes weren't so unjustifiably self-satisfied.

"Critics are supposed to be guiding American moviegoers. This study proves they're taking their own esoteric side trip."


This, from O'Neil, is a variation on that tired old line that critics are not in the business of evaluating movies, but in predicting and endorsing box office trends.

(This conflation of criticism and trendspotting really fucking irritates me, by the way. It's like we've all become complicit in dick-measuring contests that mean the square root of sweet F.A. to anyone but studio executives looking to justify their ludicrous salaries. And woe betide the critic who ignores this stupid bullshit and just sticks to, you know, doing his or her fucking job. He or she is going to get subjected to a dozen ill-conceived articles a year about how critics are "out of touch.")

O'Neil has it in his head that whoever wins Oscars wins because that is the Will of the People -- which is kind of a surprise to me, because I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that Oscar winners were picked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, not by Joe Schmoe at the multiplex, and not by Box Office Guru. The Academy, for those of you keeping score at home, is made up of 6,000+ professionals inside the movie business, none of whom are actually required to see all the movies and performances they're voting on. But I'm sure that, unlike every single other awards process in history, the Oscars are completely non-politicized. It's all about the quality for them.

The closing paragraphs contain so many frankly nonsensical arguments that I really don't know what to do with them. (Is he really saying that A Beautiful Mind was a sentimental movie about a loving, nurturing world? We're talking about the one with the schizophrenic mathematician, right?)

So I'll just say rarr, Mr. O'Neil. Fsst!

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Random urges. 

It should be illegal for people under 21 to have faux-hawks.

Barring that, it should be legal for me to punch people under 21 with faux-hawks IN THE FACE.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

U DECIDE! 

Internal monologue from a villain in Marshal Law, or manifesto for the Bush White House?

"I read in your medical notes how it was possible to manipulate the human psyche... that there is a deep need to feel protected by a hero figure... who will purify the land by merciless fire and sword... satisfying unconscious desires to be shocked and scared... Desires so strong, they can blind people to his excesses.

Indeed, the more perverted, the more fantastic the acts of violence, the more likely they are to be accepted.

Enabling me to declare war on them. And make them love me for it.

Yes, I've pissed on you all... And told you it was raining.

I've made the Orwellian Dream come true...

And taught you to love Big Brother."


U DECIDE!

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Offered without comment. 

Gor slash fiction.

(Thanks, Leah.)

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Monday, August 06, 2007

In a decent world... 

...Bush would have done this in reverse, of course. You know, try to go the legal route to approve of his programs before implementing them. If you don't want to click:

President Bush signed into law on Sunday legislation that broadly expanded the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants. Congressional aides and others familiar with the details of the law said that its impact went far beyond the small fixes that administration officials had said were needed to gather information about foreign terrorists. They said seemingly subtle changes in legislative language would sharply alter the legal limits on the government’s ability to monitor millions of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the United States.

They also said that the new law for the first time provided a legal framework for much of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted in secret by the National Security Agency and outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that is supposed to regulate the way the government can listen to the private communications of American citizens.

“This more or less legalizes the N.S.A. program,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington, who has studied the new legislation.


Oh, what's that term where you can't be prosecuted for something that used to be a crime but no longer is? It's so discouraging that he's going for yet another transparent ploy to excuse bad behavior, but at this point in time I need to stop being surprised.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Fun with Books 

Or, A Trick My Mind Played on Me While Reading The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands, by Stephen King:

Replace every instance of the word "fog" with "pog." The resulting descriptive passage will become much more... interesting.

(This message brought to you by the Torture Mike's Already Guilty Conscience Foundation of Dallas.)

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

On the stupidity of movie audiences. 

People are only as dumb as you treat them.

I state this right off the bat as a kind of thesis statement, to myself more than to anyone else. It's a mantra, and one I often forget in my race to become a crotchety, misanthropic old man roughly 40 years ahead of schedule. I forget that at heart I'm basically an optimist. This doesn't mean that I see only good in people, or some such nonsense as that; I just assume that everyone deserves at least as much respect and consideration as myself. Considering some of the boners I've pulled in my life, and have subsequently been forgiven for, I should give other folks some slack.

Anyway. The mantra:

People are only as dumb as you treat them.

And my experience tonight at the theatre (I can't ever spell it "theater" for some goddamn reason) brought that thought to the fore again. I'd gone with my mom to catch The Bourne Ultimatum, whose three prime time showings (7:00, 7:45, and 8:30) turned out to be sold out. We opted instead for Ratatouille. My mom hadn't seen it yet, but I have, some two weeks before its release at a critic screening. Oh well; it's not like seeing a Brad Bird movie a second time is a chore.

We walked in during the previews, which I hate doing. And what previews did we get, shown before this masterful entry into the Pixar catalogue? What movies were advertised, with the theatre chain's implicit belief that those who would like Ratatouille would also enjoy?

Daddy Day Camp.

Mr. Bean.

There is this belief in mainstream movie making, I guess, that the only way to snare kids is with lame bathroom jokes and physical comedy so broad you could sail the Titanic through it. And, for that matter, that the only way to get teenage girls to get their asses in the seats is to talk to them as if they are all shallow, superficial shopping addicts.

They believe our kids are fucking idiots, in other words. Adults, too. I'm not sure how else you explain the existence of No Reservations.

And yet, here I was seeing a family movie (remember: in a perfect world, family movie means appeals to everyone in the family, not pratfalls with pop culture references) some five weeks after its release... and it was a full house. While the studios are doing everything they can to pump out a release that will make the majority of its box office take in the first 7 days before bowing out three weeks later in a desperate attempt to nail meaningless honorariums (highest grossing comedy starring a fat guy and a skinny guy opening in June!), this one was still packing them in. On the other side of the movie theatre, The Bourne Ultimatum -- the third in an action franchise whose primary reason for being a "sleeper success" is that it doesn't think its audience is, you know, made up of fucking morons -- had sold out three showtimes in houses that seat 400+ people. Nevermind how it did last night or how it'll do tomorrow afternoon.

So, you know, people are responding to the good stuff. I've got no doubts there were a lot of people seeing Bratz or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Stupid Bullshit. But I wonder which audiences will have had a more fulfilling experience? I wonder which audiences will remember anything -- anything at all -- about their viewing experience a week from now? And I wonder what the audience size will be for Bratz in 5 weeks' time... if Bratz will be showing in five weeks' time at all?

Those are rhetorical questions.

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