Tuition? French Requirement? Sacre Bleu! - New Chimes Article 1/29/09

Considering that the new semester had just begun, I finally decided it was about time to start registering for classes. Although it was spring and I only had enough money in my bank account to make a minimal down-payment on a beef flavored Cup of Noodles, I still knew I could cherish the knowledge that I still had another full year and a half to cherish my status as a senior in college. This meant I finally got to sign up for all those special classes I had been setting aside until now, such as Nature of Math and Ideas Involving Biology. My dreams of taking core curriculum requirements were shattered, however, when I was told that I still had a semester left of French.

The French language and I have a troubled history. My grades within the subject began to slip when the only vocabulary I could recall were the terms "Grey Poupon," and the phrase "Do you have any Grey Poupon?" Apparently naming food toppings does not necessarily count as a valid essay writing technique. Speaking the language for class presentations came with a whole host of new complications, which I managed to cover up by use of a heavy accent, lisp, and carefully placed belly laughs. "Oh, ho, ho!" I would cheerfully chuckle from the back of my throat, "Ooh la la! Escargot Grey Poupon!" It was the most satisfying C- I had ever earned.

I myself am not gifted when it comes to speaking a foreign language. It took me 21 years to learn English and even then my grammar will does stuff not good. At the same time, I am an esteemed graduate of Biola’s Excel program and have since been promptly labeled “special” by both my mother and close friends. Also, I can jump without moving my arms.

I worried about taking my learning disability to the language department.
“Nah, ah, ah!” They would say in response to my question, as they twirled their mustaches in a haze of smoke. “En Francais!”
“Non parlare Francais!” I’d exclaim. “Je ne can’t learn los French!”
"Sacre bleu!" They would gasp, with their berets flying off their heads in shock.
Memories would rush back to me about my past torment in high school French class when I was too afraid to ask if I could go to the bathroom because my teacher would insist on using her native language. Realizing that there was only one way I could escape, I would revert back to the only phrase I could still recall.
“Où est la bibliothèque?!” I would cry out.
There would be no escape. No offering of baguettes, crepes or Nutella could ever quell Biola’s insatiable desire for me to learn French. I feared I was doomed to take a 300 level foreign language course.

With my head cast down in shame, I meandered towards the registrar’s office to sign up for the educational experience I dreaded most. It was then that destiny intervened. For upon my arrival at the office I was told that my obligation to fulfill a language credit was no longer applicable! I was done with French! As a matter of fact, I was told I didn’t have to go to classes at all ever again! There was much celebrating on my part.

After being informed that not being allowed to attend classes didn’t mean I had actually graduated from college, I ceased my triumphant, stiff-arm jumping fest and returned to casting my head down in shame. Apparently I don’t have any money left in my account to pay for next semester. It appears that although my delayed Stafford loan means I don't have to take French, it also means I can't sign up for any classes in general. It seems I have more problems now than before, the kind of problems you can only solve by selling oranges at intersections or selling illegal pets out of your coat pockets down a dark alley. Speaking of which, if you happen to want an albino ferret just give me the word.

Thanks a lot, French.

And no, I didn’t actually mean that. I only just learned what sarcasm is.


Good Morning

Suddenly it becomes really awesome.

I kind of wake up swimming with socks, but most of them aren't as clean looking.

This One Time While I Was In The Desert

Beth almost got eaten by a cactus.

Meanwhile, I found myself in a very confusing situation without any rational explanation I could use to defend my dignity.

The situation was made all the scarier by massive ant holes and numerous branches I mistook for rattle snakes.

But it was all made better when we visited my favorite dinosaurs.

It was very windy there.

Making Up For Lost Time

If you're wondering where I've been for the past couple days, the answer is quite complicated. On Friday I had my last interterm class. On Saturday I actually drove to Arizona, and then drove back the next day. Then I started new classes on Monday.

Today I was faced with the dilemma of coming up with $4,120.20 by four o'clock this afternoon so that Biola doesn't kick me out of my classes.
I had hoped it would escalate into some type of "Run Lola Run" situation, but considering that I'm not capable of running half a block without wheezing, and that I don't have bright neon red hair, it wasn't nearly as exciting of an experience. Instead I just went to the accounting office and pleaded my case.
Oh money.

If you'd like, feel free to check out a little site I had to make for my Faith Film and Philosophy class over interterm (it's about zombies).

All this action has made me miss out on this year's oscar nominations. Considering what my last bad movie review was, let's see what Benjamin Button's up for...

Benjamin Button:
Best Actor- Brad Pitt
Best Supporting Actress - Taraji P. Henson
Art Direction
Costume Design
FIlm Editing
Best Picture
Sound Mixing
Visual Effects
Best Writing


I must admit, I can't say I had much confidence in the Academy. After all, need I remind you that the hit song "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" was deemed artistic enough to receive an Oscar.

In Bruges managed to get a nod with a best writing nomination as well, which is great, if not a little overshadowed by Benjamin Button's 13 nominations.

Oh well.

Dancing Japanese Cat's make everything better.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Movie Review


View Trailer
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
(first ten minutes) *****
(the following three hours) **---

The first ten minutes of the Curious Case of Benjamin Button elicits the exact feelings that the film's title suggests. There is a curious wonderment as we are told the story of a forlorn father who constructs a clock in the memory of his slain son. His final creation is a stunning masterpiece, accompanied by a sense of reasoning so powerful it demands a response. The story quite literally flickers to life.

This flame of inspiration however is abruptly smothered by the rest of the film, which oddly enough focuses on the individual we came to see. Benjamin Button is first presented to us as an infant, but not quite. His new-born body is meant to be reminiscent of a 90 year old man. In reality it is more reminiscent of the elephant man crossed with a giant peanut. Kind of like the mole-man from the Simpsons.

For twenty minutes we are treated to watching this old baby grow up by growing down in age, and then twenty minutes later we are treated to an elderly version of Brad Pitt at a coffee table give his testimony of what we just witnessed. Twenty minutes after this we are treated to this exposition again. Something here should have been cut, or readjusted in the narrative. Wouldn't it be more interesting to see the old man who lived across the street from you to appear to be growing younger as you aged? There is no mystery here in showing Benjamin's origin. There is too much explanation and not enough events naturally unfolding.

By buying a ticket to watch a film about a boy born old and dying young, the film assumes that we have already bought into this concept. In doing so, the film treats it's material with a perplexing anchor in reality. The first fantastical ten minutes are completely out of place in a film which insists on realistically portraying one historical period to the next. There are occasional divergences, such as a rather exciting submarine battle, but for the most part the film settles on odd relationships between the central character and his love interest.

What the Curious Case of Benjamin Button wants to be is Meet Joe Black. What I wanted to see is Big Fish. The concept is so unusual and unique that it could have been a truly memorable experience, however there is something entirely forgettable about most of the film. It's first person perspective has narrative qualms, at times straying from reality for the sake of a set-piece. Take for example the existential scene in which tragedy strikes due to a taxi driver who took an extra sip of coffee. All this is narrated from the main character's diary. The scene works for the sake of entertainment, but it fails due to the fact that a first-person perspective would never allow this type of God-like perception. It's nit-picking, I know, but in a film which demands to be taken seriously, enchanting moments can't help but fall flat.

Oh boy, I've written all this but haven't even mentioned the narrative dead-end of the mother-daughter relationship in the midst of hurricane Katrina. Then again, there isn't much there to elaborate on. I will say that there is a lightning strike victim who may very likely have earned this film an extra star all on his own.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a film I liked less and less as it continued. The film is too long, too serious, and too expected for a subject matter that is so completely unique. For the very reason that it is mundane, the film fails to authenticate it's thesis. Even normal lives, and by normal I mean ones that run from young to old, are more magical than this.

Watch the first ten minutes when it shows up on HBO, then feel free to turn the channel.


It's A Needle Thing

I went to the doctor's again today to get up to date with all the injections Biola requires me to take.

The last time I went it was to let them take a few vials of my blood.
I don't have a problem with this as much as I probably should. If somebody really needs a few vials of my blood that badly I'm generally willing to go along with it. My rules concerning my blood pretty much draw the line right before anything Angelina Jolie and Billy-bob Thornton are willing to do with theirs. Testing? Okay. Wearing around the neck? Not cool.
I'd probably be willing to give blood if not for one little problem.
Apparently I pass out rather easily.

When I had my blood taken a few weeks ago everything was going along just fine, although admittedly my nurse worried me a bit. As I watched her insert a needle into my skin and witnessed a stream of my blood enter the vial, she looked me in the eyes and said with an accent, "You like to watch your blood, no?"
How exactly she expected me to respond to this, I'm not sure. But as I looked at her I began to realize how grainy my eye-sight had become. It was as if the world had gone from high-definition to 8-millimeter film. Exposure began to go, and suddenly a darkness swirled around me until it seemed as though I was looking through a straw.
"Drink this," I heard. I swallowed, and as vision returned I saw three new nurses staring back at me with concerned expressions.

This time I was given three shots on my arms. It all seemed to be going well until my right hand started aching while the nurse injected me with an Hepatitis B immunization. The familiar black haze started returning, and once she finished I asked to lay down for a moment.

This nurse was one of the three who saw me when I last blacked out.
I couldn't understand. I had seen no blood this time, nothing to make me queasy, but it still happened.
She gave me a cup of water and told me, "It's a needle thing."
Apparently so, but why needles? It seems like knives are something to be more nervous around, but maybe that's just how I am.


One Man Back in Black

I watched this a while ago and just remembered how awesome it is.
It's a one-man band version of ACDC's Back in Black. He likes to sneak in a cuss word or two here and there, so you might want to turn down the volume. Or stick it to the man and not. Either way, don't act like you're not impressed.

I'm just going to say he's done better than the original.


The Wrestler - Movie Review

The Wrestler

Some might say that the Wrestler is a compelling and moving drama. When they say that they mean it in reference to Mickey Rourke, the lead performer who picks up his role with striking conviction. Although I did briefly mistake him for a talking leather sack of oranges, his performance becomes thoroughly convincing. Apparently The Wrestler happens to be his return to great film-making. Naturally, seeing that this has universally been proclaimed as "great film-making," that means you'll be beaten over the head with religious imagery, long pauses for silence, and gritty hand-held camera shots. The Wrestler, at it's core, is a sports story, and it's a predictable one at that. Although the pseudo-documentary style is at times striking, something about the chronicled fall of Randy "The Ram" Robinson just doesn't feel authentic.

The character of Randy "The Ram" is essentially interchangeable with the character of the real-life Mickey Rourke, which in turn is interchangeable with the character of a steroid infused briefcase. He has been places, many places, and at one point carried a healthy stash of cash and success with him, but he got worn out, and now he has to scrap together the torn pieces of himself. In the film he was once a world-class wrestler, but now he has an old body and an even older soul. Seeking acceptance through his estranged daughter, his favorite stripper, and even old wrestling buddies, Randy begins to realize that his name is only truly welcome as "The Ram."

This sounds like a great movie, and at times it is. But ironically, the film is only at it's most real when it is inside of the wrestling ring. We see that the moves might be staged, but the pain is excruciatingly authentic. Is it really like this in real life? I'm not sure. Last time I watched wrestling a ten foot tall man was tag-teamed by a midget dressed as a leprechaun and a black break-dancer dressed as a woman. Now THAT was entertaining.

The Wrestler feels somewhat long. It's pretentious manner is at times well deserving due to it's skillful execution, yet fails due to it's shallow narrative. It works as an inspiring tragedy, but falters in it's emotional authenticity not because of it's acting or directorial work, but because the story is what you might expect if the Lifetime channel and Spike TV had a baby. The Wrestler is not truly about redemption, rather it is about sacrifice for the sake of entertainment. But I was never completely into it, nor do I really care if I see it again. If the men who made this film were truly dedicated to that message then they should've hired that leprechaun again. Maybe that's just me.


What a Lotta Blog Post

Here in Los Angeles we have a little pizza chain named "What A Lotta Pizza." It's a charming business, charming in the same way a young child might wear his dad's suit and everyone says "Hey! Look! He thinks he's just like a big person!" Fortunately, I highly doubt What A Lotta Pizza will mature past that state. I first suspected this after watching their infomercial which featured a poorly dressed Benjamin Franklin buying a stack of "Cheezy Garleezie Breadsticks" and "Peperononie Pizza's." My eyes frantically tried to register what exactly I was watching. "Waste not want not a penny saved is a penny earned these What a Lotta Pizza's reheat beautifully," Benjamin Franklin said, without a single pause. His words echoed as the commercial came to an awkward conclusion with he and his interviewer looking back and forth in the awkward pause.

"That was incredible," I remember Anthony saying, breaking the silence from his outstretched body on the other couch. "That is the single worst commercial I have ever seen in my entire life."

Although I once questioned Anthony's opinions concerning commercials once before, specifically one involving Australian shampoo bottles and it's anatomically incorrect Kangaroos, this time I completely agreed.
There was no doubt about it. In words only What A Lotta Pizza could understand, these commercials suckadeeonied.

We had to rewind to watch it again.

This, my friends, is a collection of not only what we saw, but every What a Lotta Pizza commercial in existence.

I in no way expect you to watch the whole thing. But I do require you to watch the clip at the 6:15 mark. You'll know it's the right one if you see a mentally handicapped individual dressed as Tarzan with a whip.

What does this all mean? It means that What a Lotta Pizza is now my favorite pizza place on the entire West Coast. That's what.

It also means that my goal in life is to one day be in a What a Lotta Pizza Commercial.
One can dream my friends. One can dream...


Crazy Japanese Drink Of the Day

Tentacle Grape.

I know what you're thinking. And no. The grape flavor DOESN'T ruin the fresh tentacle taste!


Newcott On the Top: The Best Movies of 2008

There were a lot of great movies this year, and unfortunately I couldn’t get to all of them. Yes, I’m kicking myself now for missing out on The Love Guru and Mama Mia, but assuming that those two films are the best of 2008, these are the rest I would pick for the top of the year.
Feel free to let me know how wrong I am.

Most Over-the-Top Action Sequence

The Dark Knight
The Bank Job


The man jumps through the window of a warehouse with two guns blazing. Running at full speed, he charges at a villain with his gun facing forward. With one shot, he blows a hole in the man’s face. With the barrel of the gun, he impales the man’s head. Using the corpse as a shield, he continues running. At the same time he shoots other villains THROUGH the head of the corpse he is carrying.
Congratulations Wanted. That was so awesome I’m partially retarded now. Thanks.

Best Movie to Make Me Soil My Pants

The Orphanage
Funny Games
Let the Right One In


Let the Right One In

It wins because it’s not quite horror. After all, my pants are not fully soiled, but they may be slightly defiled. It’s not even quite a drama, but I did end up with a tear or two in mines eye. Let the Right One In flutters high above any genre out of it’s dedication to it’s subjects. The fact that some of these subjects are bloodthirsty vampires only makes it far more interesting. All in all, the film serves as a powerful depiction of relationships, and of the risks inherit with devotion. When things get bloody, the film manages to quite literally sear itself into the back of the viewers mind. It’s unforgettable.

Best Movie To Make Me Say “Hmmm, That’s Deep”

In Bruges
Synecdoche New York


In Bruges

At times it may seem like In Bruges is not a drama at all. After all, it does feature the filming of a midget as a central plot point. For that reason alone I'd say it's the best picture of the year. Somehow, In Bruges culminates in one of the most surprisingly definitive conclusions, and it certainly resonates with it’s message. Much like it’s characters, In Bruges sticks to it’s principles and delivers one of the most satisfying films of 2008.

Best Comedy That Didn’t Make Me Feel Bad About Watching Something So Dirty

Pineapple Express
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Tropic Thunder


Pineapple Express

It’s something to say when one of the cleanest comedies of 2008 features two drugged out buddies as they curse their way through an elaborate drug war. After all, it didn’t feature Will Farrell violating a drum set as in Step Brothers, or Jack Black offering sexual favors in exchange for drugs in Tropic Thunder. Not that that’s not funny or anything, but Pineapple Express sets itself apart through it’s subtle direction, charming characters, and excellent acting. After a second viewing it only became more of an enjoyable experience, and I’m sure it will hold up.

Best Fantasy

The Fall
Hellboy II: The Golden Army


The Fall

It’s beautiful. Simply beautiful. That could have been enough to warrant a viewing, but The Fall truly succeeds due to it’s wonderful characters and equally wondrous cast. Consistently imaginative and provoking in it’s profundity, The Fall is easily one of the best of the year.

So Bad That I Actually Enjoyed It

The Happening

The Happening

Grass is killing people. And I don’t mean the drug. It’s just grass. The kind you’d find in the front lawn.
Mr. M. Night Shyamalamadingdong, you’ve done it again. Here’s a sack of cash and a Rolls Royce.

So Bad No One Should Ever Enjoy It. Ever.

Sex and the City
Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay

Sex and the City

Let’s not talk about it. Let’s not even think about it. Sometimes I wake up at night with a cold sweat and think I’m still in the theater being tortured by having to watch countless sequentially moving frames featuring Samantha talk about her sexy pool boy. UGggghhhhh. I just puked on my keyboard and now am typing chunks of undigested corn into the little spaces between the keys. You think that’s gross? I would rather lick these vomit chunks than watch Sex and the City again. I’ll do it just to stop thinking about it. I’m doing it right now. Adkjcdjvbaewuh932p4cs.

Personal Favorite

Let the Right One In
In Bruges



Right now you’re asking one of two things. First, did Cloverfield really come out in 2008? And second, really? Cloverfield? To answer the first question, yes. Cloverfield was released in 2008, but barely. In the usual dry spell between January and the rest of the year, a solid piece of cinema gold hit theaters. That’s not to say that many didn’t have mixed opinions regarding it’s release. Some may object to my nomination of Cloverfield as best film of 2008 due to their claims that it may or may not have caused violent seizures due to it’s handheld look. Personally, I don’t understand how anyone could watch Cloverfield and say it was not one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences of the year. The film managed to hit a perfect balance, one that teetered between horror, action, and romance. Despite maintaining a PG-13 rating, Cloverfield maintained a constant state of intensity, only occasionally letting up seemingly for the sake of allowing it’s audience to feel the strain in their muscles. The characters could have easily remained paper thin, yet they develop convincingly, and in doing so they bring an undeniable haunting quality to the frantic destruction.
Cloverfield needs to be recognized for it’s extravagant use of the medium it exists in. I can’t recall any film so dedicated to it’s own art-form. With it’s limited run-time, it’s subtle beginning, it’s gritty look, and it’s convincing cast, Cloverfield is an evolution in the cinematic experience. I feel bad for anyone who missed experiencing it with an active audience, but I pity anyone who still has yet to see it at all. It's one of my all time favorites.


Photo Of Me Day

I have no idea how this one came out so perfect, but what I do know is that I could spend a solid hour looking at it.

Speaking of photographs, I bought a polaroid camera the other day for three bucks.
Best investment of my life? It just may be so.


Synecdoche New York - Movie Review

Synecdoche New York

Had Charlie Kaufman been left to his own devices Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would have been a very different experience. There would have been no happy endings for Joel and Clementine. Instead of bravely entering a relationship despite their troubled past, according to the original script the two would have been caught in a tragic loop where each participant continually erased the other from their past life. It may have been a haunting depiction of the human mind, but it would have been a distinct alienation of it's relationship to the lives of others. The film, because of this edit, retained the authors intended message, yet at the same time it uniquely delved into the concept of love and love's past. In a matter of equal importance, the audience was entertained. Synecdoche New York is a different kind of film. I just wondered if it had to be.

This round Charlie Kaufman takes the helm as both writer and director. This also gives him the freedom to take the role as philosopher, and in doing so the film is a resonating collection of worldviews concerning the life of man. Specifically, the two worldviews prominent are of existentialism and nihilism. These views are given life through the character of Caden Cotard, a playwright who attempts to construct his masterpiece as he begins to create a miniature New York within the confines of a warehouse. The city becomes intensely personal when the author finds that he himself is one of it's inhabitants. This inevitably leads to a Russian Doll situation of sorts, as the method actors used to portray Cotard begin to construct cities of their own in similar warehouses.

The universe Charlie Kaufman is responsible for is unnerving, if not downright surreal. It's apparent disregard for continuity, chronological order, or downright spacial awareness, is initially disorienting. Once it's fully accepted, it is accepted upon the grounds that the speaker is working towards a point.

Some will say that the problem with Synecdoche New York is that working towards this point is more work than it is an enjoyable experience. The film clocks in at a half an hour longer than it should. The characters perform more as shells meant to mirror reality rather than as individuals in a narrative context. The narrative itself is unwieldy.
I agree.

Synecdoche New York is film as "art," with quotation marks and everything. I hate it for that. It will no doubt be referenced by film majors around the world and be used in comparison to other films for no other purpose than to make themselves seem smarter.
At the same time there isn't a doubt in my mind that Synecdoche New York is at times also brilliant. I'm sure it's exactly what it's creator intended, and as such I understand how that creator views the world. I don't agree with him. I didn't feel good after watching what he does with his characters. I'm even pretty sure that I don't want to see it again. And I'm sure that's exactly what he wants.

So is it worth a viewing?
It's so different from anything else out there that it's hard not to look away, but for me it only added up to a shrug and a sigh. It's interesting, and serves as something great to look at, but the lack of conviction in regards to it's narrative makes it fail as a story. Go ahead and hang it up in a gallery. Give it a glance, but feel free to look away.

Home From The Holidays

If you've been wondering where I've been for the past two weeks, I've been in D.C. spending quality time with the "fam" (that's short for family). I took Beth along with me and together we explored to wonders of our nations capital. We basked in the glow of the national Christmas tree, as well as cherished the sight of the giant glowing Menorah directly next to it.

Merry Kwanzaa Everyone.

It was a wondrous time.
Excluding the day we spent living inside of LAX after Continental abandoned us and as a result practically forced me to drink flat soda from a ghetto diner inside the airport.
Continental? More like In-competent-al! HAHAHAHAHAHALOLOMGROFL!1!1!1!! Seriously.

When Beth and I returned to my apartment from the flight home we both realized two things.
One: None of my roommates were home.
Two: I didn't have keys.

I quickly learned that all the front and back doors were locked, but after calling my roommate Jon I was informed that there was at least one door I could open. The only problem was that this particular door was located on my balcony.

Now, my apartment is on the top floor of my building. Although that's only three stories up, with the car ports on the first floor and the numerous flights of stairs leading up to my apartment, it at least seems like that's really high to me. Sure, if I fell I probably wouldn't die, but I assume I would most definitely break my legs and/or my spine.
Still, I had been in situations like this before:

That's a photo from the time I returned from Thanksgiving break a few years ago and had to climb onto the roof of our house and break in through the window leading into my roommate's bed.

This time Beth seemed to question my climbing abilities, however, I was quick to inform her that I had adequately prepared myself for situations such as this beforehand with my completion of Assassins Creed for the Xbox 360.


I bravely did a running wall-jump from the staircase to the balcony railing which in reality resembled more of a awkward fumbling of limbs awkwardly grasping for anything to hold onto. From that position I climbed upwards to the rail above me, and from there I shimmied out along the railing, trying not to look down or think about the structural stability of the rail itself.
The stunt became truly terrifying when I realized that the railing would be impossible to climb over. Rather, I had to hurdle my body over it's side. This action resulted in me landing flat on my back on the floor of the balcony.
Grasping my spine, I got back on my feet and reached for the sliding glass door.

It was locked.

The difficult realization for me was that of the fact that there was no way I could climb back down without risking further spinal damage.
I was trapped on my own balcony.
And it was dark and cold.

Inspiration struck when I remembered Jon's window.
This time it was up to Beth to dismantle the screen, open the window, climb over Jon's desk, and then open the balcony door from the inside.
She worked deftly, and as I peaked around the balcony railing to see her scramble through the plastic shades, I knew I would be saved.

We celebrated with pizza.