I invite you to close your eyes and imagine, if you will, using the basement toilet at my Dad's house. It's been a long night. You've been stuck in the house all day feeling sick to your stomach, hopped up on several tablespoons of childrens Tylenol, and eating nothing but saltines. At times like these you need to sit back and appreciate the finer things in life. Relax. Enjoy. Just let your body do all the work and oh my GOD WHAT IS THAT?!
Don't let the picture fool you. That is most certainly the biggest spider I have ever seen outside of a cage or horror movie. Don't believe me? Here, let me post a picture that will on your computer monitor (given that you don't wear a monocle and smoke hundred dollar bills like cigars) provide our spider friend a more life-like scale image.
Yes, it's lucky I saw this while on the toilet, since it literally scared the crap out of me. However, leaving the bathroom became a suddenly strenuous affair as I attempted to quietly jump up onto the toilet and edge my way out of the bathroom door. Did I imagine it suddenly leaping towards my face and making a hissing sound? Yes. Did I also consider yelling for my sick wife to come downstairs and kill it? Also yes. When it all comes down to it though, the most important thing is that I closed the basement door and shoved several towels between the cracks to ensure that whatever evil is locked away, stays locked away.
First off, if I were a double agent working for the CIA, I would immediately change my name to something far less conspicuous than something that sounds made up specifically for the purpose of an action film. Secondly, I think Pepper is altogether a better name. Yet here we are with Salt, a film that most likely does not want to be compared to the Bourne series yet undeniably will. So to make things easier to swallow, I'll take this Salt with a serving of 3 Days of the Condor.
If you've seen that classic then you're probably aware that film was not so much of an action film as a political thriller, and Salt at the very beginning almost becomes one. Deep down I have a weakness for any film that features an otherwise regular joe in extraordinary circumstances, and I think most people can relate. In this case that joe is a jill by the name of Salt (Angelina Jolie) who works as an agent in the CIA. Yes, that's not quite so regular, but with her tight fitting skirt and well-groomed hair she doesn't seem like the type to go rogue and start kicking ass whilst taking names. However, when one of her Russian interrogatees claims that's exactly what she will do, it seems like Salt doesn't have much of a choice but to oblige.
But once she begins to leap from truck top to truck top, we start to wonder if there is some truth to what the Russian said. The mystery keeps us engaged, at least until the film's half-way point, but it also keeps Salt too far away from the dinner plate. Not knowing who exactly she is and what is motivating her creates a character who, I must say at this point, is simply not as likable or interesting as Jason Bourne or James Bond. Yes, she's quite fun to have around while she's tinkering with a fire extinguisher and disassembling a desk chair, but with not much charm and personality, I had little concern over her well-being.
Clearly, this was developed to be the first part of a very long series of films. Apparently there's no shortage of evil Russians to be defeated. Naturally, this also means that the film ends on a somewhat unsatisfying note. Can't all of this mess be cleared up by asking one person of high authority what in the heck happened? I think so. In fact, by the end, I'm sure Salt really has nothing much left to be afraid of. I guess that's a minor gripe.
The movie has some great set pieces, especially for an action film. As Salt made her way from ledge to ledge, and truck to truck, I have to say my stomach was wrung like a wet towel. A specific act of vengeance had me laughing in approval, a sure sign that something was done very right. In the acting department we have Liev Schreiber, who I tend to like no matter what film he choses and what character he plays. Overall, I left the theater happy, and I'd be glad to check out what Salt has to offer next. That is, unless her competition puts something better on the table.
It's my general opinion that an action film doesn't really need to rely on character development as much as a strong character establishment. The original Predator film began with a clever segment in which Arnold Schwarzenegger created a McGuyver-esque trap to exterminate as many guerrilla soldiers as possible. It worked because the film was about two soldiers trying to out-trap the other. The big surprise was that one of the soldiers was an alien. Now we have Predators, a film that is neither a sequel to the original nor a part of the Alien VS Predator series, and a film that interestingly decides to literally drop its characters into the lap of the audience and let them flutter their broken wings. No surprise here.
The bright side is that we have Adrien Brody falling out of the sky and that he meets Topher Grace down below. These are two very talented actors who I assume chose to star in Predators simply because it has the iconic monster known as Predator in it and, heck, what other reason do you need? Even I would say yes. On the ground they meet up with a number of other fallen allies and together they wonder why they have arrived.
The answer, my friend, is Predators.
The audience is informed by Adrien Brody that the rest of the characters are comprised of a convict, a drug cartel enforcer, a Russian soldier, a sniper, a Yakuza enforcer, a revolutionary officer, and a doctor. They are Predators. Adrien Brody also informs us by looking at the numerous massive moons orbiting the sky that they have all been abducted by an alien race that is hunting them. Also Predators.
It's rare to see a movie so completely inept at exposition that all information presented is divulged in a way that is both uninteresting and illogical. There is a reason why the show LOST worked, and it's because we saw where the characters came from rather than had Adrien Brody tell us. There's a reason why the original Predator didn't tell us what the Predator monster was or where it came from. It's because we didn't need to know. Any viewer preparing themselves for this film should come expecting several long scenes of exposition in which we are told all about Predators, the Predator world, and how much it sucks to be hunted by the Predator. And all this information will only amount to one of the characters responding with "Well, F*&K YOU."
When all is said and done, Predators will give you everything except what you came to see: Actual Predators. Apart from a final battle, which is mostly identical to the original Predator (weren't they supposed to adapt in some way?), the movie will keep the Predators far enough away so that they can finally make use of their CGI horndogs and use semi-useless thermal imaging.
This movie is boring and very well could have ended with everyone dying. In fact, that probably would have been preferable over the ending that left the characters musing "Great, now let's do what we were supposed to be doing this entire time." It feels as though nothing was accomplished except for exposition, and I don't expect much more to come.
It's decided for now that DC will be our new home. Beth stayed behind a couple days after me to pack up the apartment with the help of her parents who have graciously allowed us to fill their garage with boxes once again.
Last Sunday night, on July 7th, in the evening, before the sun set, my mom died. Her pronounced time of death was 7:45, but I don't think any of us really bothered to look at the clock. The days leading up to the moment and even the moments now seem unreal. At times it's as though I'm sitting in a movie theater watching someone else wander through my life in a surreal first-person documentary.
As my niece Madison put it in her e-mail, which was rather elegantly entitled "Dead," she wrote, "Today is very sad. My grand mother just died. She lived a good life."
Beth and I, along with my aunt Sue, brother Nick, sister Tiffany, father, and grandparents, were all at my mothers side when she took her last breath. This, in itself, is a miracle. She died just as she had wanted, at home, surrounded by those she loved. My father was singing her favorite hymns, and at the crescendo of "Household of Faith," her most favorite of all, she passed away.
I had never seen anyone actually die before, and death is not the most elegant of experiences to either experience or view. Immediately when it occurred I felt the moment repeat on a loop in my mind, and it took Beth to remind me that the moment isn't of any importance in comparison to the freedom to follow. My mom fought for life for so many years. It's comforting for me to know with certainty that my mother has truly found her home with God, and I think in her very last moments it was comforting for her to know that we would be sharing that eternity with her as well. With that in mind, today is not so sad after all.
I want to thank you all for your prayers and for your support. Even now we are surrounded with friends and family while embracing memories of our missing friend. Up to her final moments she kept her sense of humor and hospitality, whether she was frequently telling me to cut my hair, celebrating my sister-in-law Susan's birthday party, or musing on her fancy reclining chair that in her opinion was at once both magical and "tragical." My mom has left behind a lot of great memories throughout the course of a lifetime.
This Saturday we had a wonderful ceremony at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda. I know it was everything my mom could have ever hoped for. Together we celebrated the wonderful life she lead while at the same time rejoiced in the eternal life she shares with the Lord at this very moment. My brothers and I each shared memories of her, and although mine wasn't much more than a few recollections of watching General Hospital each day with her after school, they each reflected the incredible personality and influence our mom had on our lives and the lives of all those who she touched.
Thanks again to everyone for their support.
It doesn’t happen often, but every once and a while there comes a film that makes me wonder why I should even continue making films, or pretty much anything for that matter, at all. This isn’t because the movie is so bad, on the contrary, even Speed 2: Cruise Control has enough inspiration to draw out the most inexperienced artists and make them rationalize “If somebody could get away with making this, then why can’t I?” Some films are simply so good, and on a level completely beside themselves, that one has to wonder if they themselves have anything to offer the world that could possibly compete. Inception is one such movie. In fact, it really is one of the best films I have ever seen.
Being such a great movie, I almost don’t want to give an introductory synopsis. This is a movie that wants you to figure it out on your own, and doing so is just one of the films many joys. I suppose what you need to know is that the film is about a man (Leonardo DiCaprio) who has the interesting occupation of constructing and entering the dreams of the corporate elite. His job is mainly to extract valuable information from the subconscious safe hidden away in the dreamers mind. Of course, not all of the heists go quite right, but when one such incident occurs it leads to an interesting opportunity. This time instead of stealing information, he has to plant one. All things considered, it should go well for everyone, unless the mind of the constructor begins to get in the way.
With this comes the understated thought experiment of the origin of ideas, of ideas being tainted by other men, or of ideas being completely manifested by a third party. Where does inspiration strike, and when is inspiration something not to be trusted? The fact that such a situation is so invasive and, in a way, perverse, is hardly even addressed by the central characters. This is a job, and the rewards in themselves prove to be admirable. The only objectors are the manifested observers in the dreamers mind who don’t like having someone else messing around upstairs.
This is a movie where everything just seems to work, even when the muddled mess of dreams within dreams within dreams within the subconscious seem incomprehensible to the viewer. This is a demanding film to experience, not just watch, and although there are wonderful action sequences to behold, it takes an engaged mind to keep up with the world the film constructs from the ground up.
It must be noted, in my opinion, that director Christopher Nolan’s work does have some notable similarities to other films I’ve seen. Anyone who likes this needs to take a look at the anime film Paprika, whose frantic story-line also revolves around a dream detective stumbling through the subconscious mind, entering gravity free hallways, and riding on elevators to parts of the mind one might not be ready to enter. Quite similar, at least without gigantic skyscraper-destroying china dolls and fighting robots
(yeah, it’s pretty trippy),
Still, when it comes down to it, Inception is quite simply a far better movie. Really, it's a masterpiece. It just is. If you don’t trust me ask the reviewer next to me who boasted of her meticulous note taking skills only to leave the theater with blank pages.
This is a film that demands you pay full admission and view it immediately. Having not just a big screen, but an active audience as well, is simply outstanding. Here you’ll find one of those final shots that stands among Citizen Kane as one of the greatest moments in film history, one of those moments so highly calibrated it could never be executed in a finer fashion. Afterward, as you take the elevator down to your car waiting patiently in the garage, I can guarantee you’ll be waiting for the next kick.
It's been kind of quiet on the Awkward Unicorn lately, and I thought I should at least post a little tid-bit about what's going on right now in the life of Beth and myself. I've updated some of my close friends with most of this information already, but I thought I'd copy, paste, and post some of it on here as well. Just so you're in the loop.
If you didn't know, a few years ago my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I actually came back during college to kind of hold down the fort until it seemed like the coast was clear, or at least until Beth and I got to talking and I decided it was time to get back to California.
Over the past few months my mom's progress was declining, and although she managed to get to the beach this summer with some friends, over the past week her condition has suddenly worsened.
The general consensus is that the cancer has spread to her brain. Her speech is very slurred, eyes very droopy, and her overall presence is very thin. She often wonders why my dad is giving her two pills, when in fact she's only seeing double.
A few nights ago she complained to my sister about a woman in a red sweater sitting next to her. When my sister asked whether the sweater was too red or too bright my mother simply stated that it was 102 degrees in DC and there's no need for one. She then concluded, "and of course, she isn't real is she?" The woman in fact, wasn't. Apparently hallucinations are part of the mix now too.
I'm not sure how many days she has left. It just doesn't seem quite right (and we can't really afford) to fly out here to D.C. now, head back later, and then come back out again for a funeral. Seeing as my only means of support is a gig at 7 Eleven, and with the amount of time being taken off severely cutting down that support to afford rent and toilet paper, we've been thinking that my job status is up for revision again.
This week we decided that we'll be moving to DC for a little while to support my family and find jobs in a place that we want to be. Which is crazy, especially since it seems like we just got settled in.
And to be honest, that kind of sucks. We love our little apartment and have been racking our brains with ways to return all of our most precious belongings (which by this point we've narrowed down to just Georgie Fruit and our mattress) back to Visalia.
That said, we still love Portland. We miss our good friends. A lot. We want all of us to live in the same apartment building and be best friends forever. Please pray that we can make that a reality, or at least make a good home for ourselves in a decent place. And for my mom. Things are hard.