11.29.2011

Felicity and Time Travel



Well, it finally happened. Beth and I finished watching the entire series of Felicity. Now before you silently judge us, in Beth's defense and my shameful, shameful, guilt, it was actually my second time through. What can I say? I was a freshman in college and had a lot of things to figure out, and I also liked to have a reason to skip class. Any reason.

"It's lunchtime and Yo Momma's on again? ...Who needs Theology anyways."

If you don't know what Felicity is about, it's basically a girl who goes to college for four years, works at Dean and Deluca, and repeatedly breaks up and gets back together with the same two people over and over again. If you're wondering how a group of guys I knew in college were watching this show, one possible reason is that I knew a lot of closeted gay people back then, the other reason is that J.J. Abrams helped create it. That's not to say the show is filled with smoke monsters and polar bears, but there is a lot of drama and at some point somebody gets hit by a bus.

I should also mention that Matt Reeves, the maker of one of the best movies ever made, also worked on the show.

The problem with Felicity, I realized, is that the show apparently kept going way longer than I actually thought it did. Whereas whatever I watched took up about two weeks of classes, Felicity on Netflix can take up to a month. Each episode is an hour long, with twenty four episodes to each season, and each season spanning a year in Felicity's life. Essentially, I felt like I was at college all over again, and it was still a long, excruciatingly dramatic experience, with a few exciting moments thrown in where somebody gets hit by a bus.

I was surprised to discover that at some point towards the end of the series the show still had four episodes left after every single loose thread was already tied up. At this point I assume J.J. Abrams took back the helm and did what he only knows best, which of course was add time travel. So spoiler alert people: Felicity travels through time. Just like Urkel did at some point in Family Matters, with the the obvious exception being that Urkel did all sorts of crazy crap and Felicity was based in the real world where people went to school and worked all day at Dean and Deluca to pay off student loans.

Now anyone who knows me can say that I'm a huge fan of anything related to time travel, and am certainly willing to fit it into any show, especially if it involves robots of some sort. But here I had a problem. As opposed to doing something important in the past, like make tons of money and actually go to classes instead of watching reruns of Yo Momma on MTV, Felicity instead chooses to do exactly what she did before and repeatedly break up and get back together with the same two people over and over again until she screws with the space-time continuum enough to start killing people on accident. This could have been cool, but instead is just confusing because, again, the show wasn't Family Matters and Felicity isn't able to drink a potion and become Cool Urkel Stefan.

"Yo Mamma's a cool Urkel -OOOOH! You just won cash moneee!"

Not that it ruined the show or anything. I still have fond memories of watching Felicity in a dorm that reeked of mildewed ramen noodles, and enjoyed seeing it a second time in my new room which pretty much smells the same sometimes. Now that it's over, it's time to move on and see what else Netflix has in store, which I really hope isn't Family Matters. I guess moving on is really what Felicity was all about.

11.21.2011

Melancholia - Movie Review

melancholia_02


Melancholia
*****

Split Melancholia in half and you have the beginning of a rather slow chick flick and the conclusion of the best science-fiction guy-movie you'll ever see. As one who would kind of like to see if Mr. Darcy is about to be consumed by a giant planet, such a premise fascinates me.

"M'Lady, I do believe we're screwed... Shall we retire to the rumpus room?"

Part one begins with the wedding of Justine to Michael (played by Kirsten Dunst and Alexander Skarsgård, respectively, otherwise there would be a man in the bridal gown which belongs in a different kind of art film altogether). It's unsure to say how much of their relationship was based upon mutual feelings or economical factors, even though everyone appears to be wealthy. Although they do seem to have their fun beforehand, things soon turn sour once they reach the mansion. Amidst Justine's quarreling parents who were previously divorced, Justine's anxious sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and obscure business dealings, the marriage itself becomes background noise. The relationships are rather complex, and they're not made easy to define. It's a kind of confusion that works though. Justine wonders how she got there herself, and her subsequent choices define the darkness that she enters. Meanwhile, far above them, a distant star is giving it's last breath.

Part two takes place some time later in the future, when the wedding is a faint memory obscured by Justine's profound sadness. She mopes around the mansion as her sister Claire attempts to care for her, despite distinct distain from the both of them. They are brought together by an approaching blue planet named Melancholia, which is expected to graze Earth's path and then wander off. It's expected to because who would imagine that it wouldn't? Claire's husband (Keifer Sutherland) is sure it won't, which comes as a comfort to Claire, at least for a little while.

Depression is something that we see as a weakness, something to be cured. The film is in two parts to show us a perspective from the other end of the spectrum. Happiness can come with overbearing weights of expectation, while depression can offer that freedom that comes when there is nothing left to lose. In one part, one is strong, in the other, one is weak. It's strange how in the face of the ending of the world neither of them change all that much, but it's interesting in how they come to understand that. This is one of the most beautiful films I've seen, both in the way it is composed, and in the way it makes you feel. You're left with that feeling for a long time, and even if you don't necessarily like it I guarantee that you'll be thinking about it for a long time to come. See it.

11.13.2011

Say Meow Again - A Journal Entry From Little Zack

When I was little my family did a lot of traveling. One year in particular we had journeyed to France, England, and (what some may consider to be less exciting) the mid northeast of the United States. Fortunately much of this was chronicled through daily journal entries. I seemed to enjoy writing mostly about what I ate each day, which appears to be numerous meals at Mc Donald's. It was a magical time.

This entry I found is particularly amusing and involves my cat Furball, who liked to make a dramatic display whenever we were about to leave. I should note, it has the best ending line ever. I think I might use it more often.

Furball story page 1

Furball story page 2


Here is the entry nicely typed (typos included):

"Columbus, Ohio

11/18/1996

A few days ago I went to Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. We got a late start because my cat was up a tree. My whole family was going crazy! First my dad tryed to get her down by a hose of water. It shot up like a bullet except the cat went higher. Then my mom tide a string to the cats muffy mouse. My mom started saying see see mouse yea. But it didn't work. Then my sister started meowing. She went Meowwww. Then the cat came one step down. Meow again said my mom. My sister went meow. It didint work. No it was Meoww said my mom. Evry one went in side because it was the first snow of the season. Then the cat got lonely. evrybody was looking at the top of the tree throug the window. No whan could see the cat up the tree. But evry one thoght that the Cat was hideing behind the branches. I looked at the ground then I saw a cat hiding in the snow on the ground. evry one else was looking at the top of the tree. I said to them look the cat is on the grouned then evry one bursted out of the house. when they got the cat they fed her balone."

11.07.2011

How To Make A Costume For Free And Go To A Weird Party

There are years when you'll spent countless hours perfecting your Halloween costume to elaborately capture your style, sense of humor, and vast knowledge of internet memes. And then there are years where you end up looking like this:



Most of what we have here are remnants of old costumes Beth's parents had stacked in the garage. Some I suspect for their animals.

Our dear friend Trevor was visiting from LA and decided to stop by after kicking back a few brooskies with his old man. Did I spell brooskies right? In any case, he was in the mood to find some authentic Visalia Halloween parties to go to, and realizing that we're never invited to any said Halloween parties, we decided to crash one that our friend was invited to while wearing disguises.



I'm fairly certain Trevor's costume is just an alternate reality version of Trevor, with some homeless/rockstar/Hagrid from Harry Potter thrown in there too. I meanwhile am a little bit more of a mystery, but Trevor and Beth noted that I'd fit in pretty well in some of the weirder scenes of the movie Eyes Wide Shut.

I think Beth stole the show though as a rebellious cross-dressing Amish person.



The party we attended turned out to be somewhat more disturbing than our costumes. Upon arrival we were met with blazing music, and I have no memory what the house looked like from the outside due to the fact that the lion mask I was wearing is carved from wood and has extremely small eye holes.

Once I had removed it I realized Trevor was missing, which was odd because we had literally been inside for no more than five seconds.

Stranded in the foyer we could only stand awkwardly silent while people asked who we were.

Luckily we found our friends who were waiting in the backyard. Their Dr. Who costumes showed a certain amount of time and effort our costumes clearly lacked, and yet, I'm still proud of us.

Eventually we were reunited with Trevor who admitted to making a straight b-line towards wherever he could find alcohol. His reasoning was that he was going to get a free drink or two before anyone kicked us out. And if that doesn't describe Trevor then maybe this picture will:


It's kind of why we love him.


Abandoning Trevor to his punchbowl of orange-flavored liquor, we left with our friends to a quieter porch in a different part of town, where we could make chit-chat without having to stare at a random guy who passed out on a lawn chair. Overall, I would say it was a success.

And so I leave you with a festive pumpkin I modeled after our cat who keeps peeing in the shower.



Happy Fall Everyone!

10.24.2011

A Little Bit Of Spray Paint Art

One day while I was over at Max's he showed me his ways of making spray-paint stencils. Although I still didn't really know what I was doing, I did manage to make what I have below. Beth thought that her resemblance to Cleopatra was a bit unsettling, and I think that's why I like it best.





10.23.2011

Dinah: Defender of the Cat Door



YOU SHALL NOT PASS.

Adventures In Portland




My trip to Portland began with the purpose of a job interview and gradually evolved into making Halloween decorations with my brother-in-law John. One thing I know about the guy is that he's a very accomplished conversationalist and is capable of speaking on an expansive range of topics covering anything between the film "Dude Where's My Car?", the social life of lumberjacks, and even the sordid history of a local restaurant-turned-porno-shop.

"You know why it's called the One-Eyed Cobra, right??" He said laughing, as he drove me from the train station, along with his mother in the front seat next to him.

After a 17 hour train ride and a case of overwhelming allergies, I wondered if anything I was experiencing was real. When I found myself stuffing a clown suit with plastic bags, I accepted the random nature of this strange new universe.

John has always makes a personal goal to top whatever seasonal decorations he had on his front lawn the previous year, much in the same way he monthly tops his voicemail message with a new theme. When I first approached the house it was guarded by a group of ominous black shrouded creatures creatively fashioned out of trash bags and wire. There were at least two disembodied hands and feet within eye-sight at all times, either laying on a grave or hanging in a tree.

"The goal is to literally scare the piss out all the little kids in the neighborhood," he told me.

The clown suit I was stuffing was a costume John had purchased on sale but realized was one size too small. Being resourceful, John makes use of whatever materials he has around. Even christmas lights came in handy for turning his shrub into a giant jack-o-lantern. His plan for the clown was to have it hanging from a noose over his driveway.

I traced an old pair of John's boots on a large piece of foam he had refused to recycle for this specific purpose. Surprisingly I didn't need to exaggerate much, and he cut them out and spray-painted them green for the clown's feet. Then we got to work on the head, which was a repurposed plastic skull we covered in painted duct-tape to imitate flesh.

While we did this he told me stories of "Uncle Sam," a Special Forces Marine who lived before there was such a thing as a "Special Forces Marine." His accomplishments included diving into a frozen lake to retrieve a dead body, locking a drunken wife-beater in the trunk of his car, and again locking a bartender in his own freezer so that his underage boys could have a drink. Such a legacy.

My job interview hadn't gone great, mostly because it wasn't much of an interview. Despite my attempts to arrange a meeting in advance there was no one for me to really meet with and I was told they wouldn't be hiring a new batch of employees until the next month, or possibly next year. I did, on the other hand, get a few free cups of coffee, which was a nice consolation prize.

Feeling the need to accomplish something on the trip, I applied to a Good Will store for a shift supervisor position, which I didn't expect to do but found myself feeling good about.

Before my trip back I spent the morning watching John tie a rope to a bottle and repeatedly attempt to throw it over a tree branch without damaging any of the cars in the driveway, which proved to be quite a challenge. He lovingly named the clown "Herpes" and hoisted it up into the air, it's decrepit face grinning to all who pass it, or look out their second floor window.

Whether he's telling you about his old foul-mouthed co-workers by the docks, biker gangs in Montana, or Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, John always seems to have a topic to wear the hours the away. I felt as though I was quiet for most of the trip, but with John around not much needs to be said. Uncle Sam has his own stories, but it's a guy like John who people want to talk about. Now I have some stories of my own.

10.22.2011

Boxcar Children




If there's one thing I've learned from taking the train it's that I never need to talk to anyone ever again. If I'm there, people will talk to me. Take for instance my seat companion Tumbleweed, a very nice self-identified hippie from California who hopes she'll be reincarnated as a house cat someday.

"You know what raccoons really like to eat," She said, "corn. They love the munchies."

This, for once, was a conversation I was actually very much interested in.

Tumbleweed was traveling from Eugene and Portland after visiting friends and family. I'm not really sure who was friends and who was family because everyone was referred to as brothers and sisters. Knowing that this in turn made me a brother was kind of cool. I once tried calling people this for a week in college after watching a bunch of LOST episodes with that Australian guy, but sadly could never pull it off.

"I just got back from my sister's place." Tumbleweed told me, speaking very quickly. "Man, I couldn't get out of there faster, you know she ditched me at the bar last night? Yeah, just hopped in a car with a bunch of guys. Her fiance's gonna be pissed. I was pissed too, some girl bought a nugget from me last night for 20 dollars and this morning I realized it was a one dollar bill."

As the conversation turned to this I began to realize that people are really very complicated. Or at least their lives are complicated. They themselves are just happy if you listen about how complicated their lives are. Take for instance the sweet elderly man who told me about his extended family.

"My son, I just don't know what his problem is. He has all sorts of issues." He told me. "And he's a psychologist so you'd figure he'd be able to fix it himself."

Then other things are just downright scary. I was exiting the train in Sacramento and watched a young black girl run screaming out the doors. She and her apparent boyfriend were running in circles, and I wasn't sure it was some sort of weird game until he outright punched her onto the curb. Once the security guards swarmed I was told by another passenger that it was an argument over a cellphone. I spent the rest of the time waiting for the next train in the brightest lit area possible. Had I still had my car keys they would've been poised and ready in case I needed to defend myself. Somewhere deep within me I hoped I had absorbed some knowledge from the self-defense segments on Nate Berkus.

For the most part though people just want to get along. I was sitting in the lounge car when a woman started praising the Bloody Mary's Amtrack serves in the cafe.

"The forest is so pretty!' She said, "It's a real shame those people out there are spoiling it with their above-ground pools."

In a way, I had to agree.

"I'm not a hippie," She sang, "I'm just trying to adjust."

I'm not really sure what that one meant, but it sounded interesting.

"I can't wait to get off this train and self-medicate." She continued.

I smiled, nodded, and put on my headphones although my ipod had run out of battery long ago.

Once she had enough she retired to her seat, but meanwhile, outside the window, rolling fog revealed trees, rivers, mountains, through tunnels and over bridges, against cliff walls and under boulders, and just kept moving until someone else took my place. I'm sure whoever it was had something else to say as well.

10.11.2011

Travels With Furball




The first airport security guard to stop us was a friendly older gentleman who wanted to make sure we weren't trying to take too many carry-on bags with us to the gate. I pointed out that our extra bag was actually carrying my cat.

"Oh my!" He said happily, "and what's it's name?"

"This is Furball."

"Herb-all! Well it's a pleasure to meet you Herball!"

"...Right."

He bent down to look Furball in the eyes but she was too busy quickly whipping her head from side to side to see the crowd of people walking through massive x-ray machines and putting bags onto small conveyor belts.

"Now I do notice that Herball here isn't asleep." He said.

"Yeah, she's pretty old so we weren't sure if it would be a good idea to drug her up." Furball has been my cat since the 3rd or 4th grade. I'm 24 now and am unfortunately too lazy to figure out how old that actually makes her, but her papers say 13. How exactly veterinarians figure out cat ages is a mystery to me, but my wife thinks it probably has something to do with rings around the tail.

"Well good luck Herball!" The old man said.

We continued through the line until we got to the next security checkpoint, at which the man checking our tickets immediately started to sneeze.

"We have a cat with us," I said. "How exactly does this work?"

The man continued sneezing and said, "Well that explains it." Blowing his nose he continued, "You'll have to take her out of the carrier and walk through."

This terrified me.

Furball has become notorious throughout my family as the cat that likes to scratch everything, especially faces, mostly children's faces actually. How exactly this ancient cat would react to a strange world of loud noises, x-ray machines, and massive flying machines was something I wasn't eager to discover.

We walked up to the next line. I was stopped by another security guard and I leveled with him.

"So the Turkey hasn't really kicked in yet," I said, "And honestly, this cat has really sharp claws. Can I just send her through the x-ray machine anyways?" Secretly I just really wanted to see the image of a deranged cat skeleton show up on the tv screen.

"You could, but I'm not sure if it would come out the other side." The man replied. "That said, I ain't chasing after no cat."

I sighed, shook my head, and after taking off my shoes and belt, I started to unzip the cat carrier.

She definitely didn't want to come out, and immediately upon being released she dug all of her claws deep into my shirt.

"Yeeeesh!" The security guard said, suddenly backing away.

Furball has over the years lost small patches of hair leaving her at times looking like a wild animal. I imagine walking through security in bare feet, sagging pants, wearing a ragged shirt, while carrying a very scared animal, that I looked somewhat like a refugee. How nobody threw spare change at me is a mystery.

Luckily, despite a few minor scratches, we made it through, and Furball was more than happy to hop back into the carrier once again.

The entire flight went without any major incidents, mostly because the sounds of a baby crying and a scared cat are oddly similar. The Indian man next to me didn't even realize he was sitting next to an animal until we were about to land.

Now Furball is officially a California cat, and no matter what, has lived to see both coasts of America (which I consider to be a major achievement for a feline). Who knows where her adventures will take her next, especially considering she has already ventured underneath a pile of firewood in the backyard where I had to struggle to get her out. It's nice having her around, and I wonder what she must think of grown-up Zachary and his strange world of airplanes and dogs and other cats, but I think she likes it. She definitely likes it better than being called Herball.

9.18.2011

One of those faces



Beth and I had spent the long weekend dog-sitting in Los Angeles and decided that we should take a short break to visit our friend Jehoaddan. She, along with her husband, had just purchased a quaint house in Highland Park and was in the process of moving. After a quick tour the three us began to walk back to her apartment. It was then that a car pulled up behind us and someone from the front seat yelled “Hey!”

My initial reaction when someone does this in Los Angeles is to curl up in the fetal position, in the same manner you would during a grizzly attack, a tornado, or a marathon of What Not To Wear. In this instance the "Hey" was so friendly that we turned around and smiled. We discovered that the greeting came from a young man wearing glasses sitting in the passenger seat of a car, with a girl next to him as the driver.

Immediately I recognized him as my friend Thatcher, who I once shared a bathroom with during my freshman year in college and had since never really had a meaningful conversation with. Probably because of said bathroom. The fact that we both had to hear each other doing our business while studying kind of put a damper on things. Still, knowing he had recognized me made me feel somewhat special, so I responded enthusiastically “HEY!! How’s it going?!”

“Hey,” he replied, "um, it's going good."

Oh Thatcher, I thought fondly, always so awkward. That guy is high-larious.

“Good to see ya!!!!” I said back, waving enthusiastically.

“Hi!” Beth chimed in, also recognizing him as her friend from Visalia.

Then Jehoaddan, with a slightly perplexed look, came forward and said, “These are my friends Zack and Beth.”

Suddenly I realized that this guy wasn’t in fact my friend Thatcher, but actually somebody who I had never met before in my entire life and now was probably trying to figure out, at that same moment, how he could have possibly known me. Did we run into each other once at a bar? Were we in the same homeroom in high school? A neighbor perhaps? Good thing I didn't mention we shared a bathroom.

The guy smiled, nodded, and sat quietly for a moment while deeply in thought, before slightly shrugging and following it up with, “Well I'll see you later!”

The girl in the drivers seat promptly drove off.

Jehoaddan turned to me and asked, “Did you meet him at our wedding?”

For a moment I considered saying yes, just to spare us all the embarrassment, but realizing that I didn't actually go to their wedding, I bit my lower lip and admitted, “No. I have no idea who that guy is."

"Really?" She said. "But you seemed so friendly."

Beth too gave me a perplexed look.

Suddenly I realized that in the moment that I said hi, every single person on that street was trying to figure out how exactly anyone knew anybody else, to the point of making up entire false memories. To everyone there, that guy and I already went way back.

"Well, if it makes you feel better," Beth later told me, "He probably thought you were on crack."

Somehow it actually did make me feel better.

I think the next stranger I'm running into is getting a hug.

8.15.2011

Song Cover of the Day


Eef Barzelay, you win every time.



Beth and I actually e-mailed him to attend our wedding. And He actually responded. Our cat Georgie Fruit, in some sort of drunken stupor, almost emailed him back with "BBBBQBNZ," or, barbecue beans for short. Well here he is with a cover of Neutral Milk Hotel's In An Airplane Over the Sea. (via: torre)
Yes.

8.13.2011

I Confess


I got locked in the ghetto scary bathroom at my friend Max's place.

Max recently renovated his garage into an art studio. And by "renovate," I mean it's an art studio even though it still looks like a garage. We've been doing our best to paste a few works of art here and there. I stopped by a few days ago and he had already painted a few masterpieces onto glass including an awesome depiction of a giant octopus and one of Batman with very feminine lips.



What do they mean? I don't know. I'm not a doctor. But they look awesome.

The only problem with Max's art studio is that the closest bathroom is pretty ghetto. By ghetto, I mean, the door lock doesn't work. Myself, being a self diagnosed sufferer of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, suddenly had a need to use the restroom, and yet, didn't realize the whole door-locking problem until I was already finished.

I suddenly found myself in a peculiar five foot wide situation between a locked door and a window with a very snugly fit screen. I momentarily thought about yelling for help, but then realized, "Oh yeah, I'm in the bathroom. The place where everyone goes to defecate." Basically I would be yelling "Please. Help. I defecated and I can't get out."

I hung my head for a moment in shame and then pulled myself together. I would get out of this situation in the least embarrassing way possible.

This of course resulted in me mustering all my strength to remove the screen window and then climb out a rectangle much smaller than my entire body and fall into a patch of shrubs in Max's front yard.

After taking a moment to brush off the dust, I casually looked around to make sure no neighbors had witnessed this, and then walked back into Max's garage from the outside.

I greeted him calmly and realized my plan was a success. I had somehow entered his house through the garage, used the bathroom, and then, miraculously, re-entered through the garage door outside of his home without anyone noticing. Basically, I could have been a time traveler, and no one would have ever known. Awesome.

I pushed the whole experience out of my mind until the next day, when after eating lunch with Max he asked me, "Could you help me unlock the bathroom door behind the garage?"

"Why certainly, my good friend." I replied with an air of convincing ignorance. "Why, whatever could have happened?"

"I dunno, the door somehow got locked shut."

"Ah, what a mystery. Well I guess we'll just have to submit that one to Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, if you know what I mean. Ah Ha Ha."

"Sure dude." He said.

We shimmied the door and fiddled with the outside lock until it came undone. But then, the evidence of the previous night foiled my thinly veiled secrecy.

"What's the screen doing on the floor?" Max asked.

"Okay," I said, lowering my voice, "I have something to tell you. I got locked in your bathroom last night."

Max, reasonably, laughed in my face. I laughed too, now suddenly understanding that my shame was just as ridiculous as the entire situation.

I put the screen back into place and headed back home. The secret was out, but now we knew, never use the scary bathroom, unless you have a plan.

Skyline - Movie Review

skyline-movie

Skyline
view trailer
***--

At its heart Skyline is a very fun and inventive sci-fi action flick. Unfortunately much of the film is concerned with brains, and as far as character development goes, there isn't a whole lot to be found. Then again, it is an action flick after all, so at least they're trying.

I had a creative writing professor once tell me that if you ever want to make a story far more complicated, make one of the characters pregnant. Skyline understands the concept of this principle with one of the central characters, who starts off the film with morning sickness just before somebody is pull off the balcony by a floating blue light. She, along with her husband, are spending a post-party night at their friends magnificent apartment in LA. It's modern now in the way I imagine modern looked to people in the 80's. That is, everything is run by a remote.

The first ten minutes of this movie don't make a very good impression. First of all, the opening credits appear to have been made by a freshman in college who just figured out how After Effects work. Secondly, everyone looks like they're straight out of a Sci-Fi Channel "made for tv movie." Thirdly, the movie starts off with a flash forward which is really just a cheap method of telling the audience that this is an alien movie even though we see all the same events take place ten minutes later down the line. Start off as a normal movie why don't you?

But get past it. Those are minor gripes that actually, maybe only I have. Skyline has a lot of things that really work. Take for instance a scene featuring an agonizingly slow garage door. Sometimes, what you want to happen faster suddenly starts to happen all too quickly. The film plays well against what you want the characters to do, and seems to find inventive ways to reverse them.

What the film is lacking is a sense of humor about itself. I would have cared for any kind of comic relief. Maybe not Jar Jar Binks, but somebody who would make light of the fact that even though these people are cornered in an apartment by brain eating aliens, at least they're cornered with a supply of energy drinks and alcohol. Honestly, it's not so bad. I would've kicked back a bit and took in the glowing lights with a pair of sunglasses.

All that's left to analyze is the ending, which arrives at a half hour before it should have. The movie was made with a very small budget, so what happened? Did the funds just run out? Did somebody say, "Well, at least we'll have something for the sequel?" As far as length goes, it actually ends at about the right time. But at the last ten minutes I was met with an action film that turned into a really very good sci-fi movie. That leaves me with a pretty lame first ten minutes, and a very good last ten minutes of a movie that actually isn't finished. Well, there are good bits thrown in the middle too, but they are only punctuated by characters interacting with "Well what's your plan HOT SHOT?!" And "You've got a better idea?!" Honestly, the characters themselves with their glossy make-up and carefully disheveled hairdo's were a little alien to begin with; so I guess there's not much to worry about if some interstellar beings take their place.

With all that said, for a relatively small film (made roughly for 10 million) there is an abundance of great special effects that work due to some very well written and edited scenes. It's made for the sole purpose to entertain, and to entertain without getting an R-Rating, and to make money, so I think it's a success. Good for them. This isn't really a movie though. This is a great television pilot. Since it's for free on Netflix, I recommend tuning in.

8.11.2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
view trailer
**---

Let's face it. No one reads Curious George to see what's going on with the Man In The Yellow Hat. They want to know about that crazy monkey who does his shenanigans, gets into trouble, but comes out fine in the end. Well here we have Rise of the Planet of the Apes, an apparent prequel to Planet of the Apes which was an adaptation of the French Novel "La Planète des singes," or rather "Monkey Planet." I guess there really isn't anything new under the sun.

Well, Rise of the Monkey Planet begins and plays out much like the first ten minutes of a zombie movie, but for roughly an hour and a half. It involves a bio technology that works better than expected (at least where chimps are involved) and then mankind gets to reap the benefits. This occurs first hand with Will Rodman (played by James Franco) who presents his cure for Alzheimers while a mother ape goes bananas in the lobby and breaks through the futuristic glass computer screen in the meeting room. We all know a meeting like this would take place with boring PowerPoint presentations, but I guess if it's realism we're looking for we're in the wrong theater. Needless to say, things don't pan out well for the investors, but Will at least gets to take home a consolation prize in the form of mother ape's baby. The baby ape soon meets Will's deteriorating grandfather (John Lithgow, in a role much less scary than what you've seen in Dexter or Blow Out) who names him Caesar.

Well, all hail Caesar, king of the apes and king of the actors. Caesar is played by Andy Serkis, who reprises his role as King Kong in a more sizable fashion, and who most people remember as Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Here he's in his element, and so are the special effects. Yes, it may be too reminiscent of Jumanji at times, but the film manages to find the particulars about the way that apes move and make them integral to the plot. Zombies might move fast these days, but you don't see them swinging from the trees.

The movie doesn't always work. The humans are never quite as entertaining as the monkeys. As far as this working as a reboot of a series, the script squeezes in some sort of mentioning of a mission to Mars, which I guess includes Charlton Heston on the ship. There's the peculiar feeling that not as much happens as there could have, and the strange feeling that James Franco's character is doing the right thing even though he's eventually responsible for killing off most of the humans on the planet. A better movie would have recognized this, or at least even mentioned it. Don't expect any big questions to be addressed.

The original Planet of the Apes played as a Freaky Friday of sorts, turning the leashes onto those who held them. Here at least we get to see apes escaping from San Francisco. Personally, if the movie really wanted to go the distance, I would have had them escape to Alcatraz and have it claimed as Ape Island.
But then again, as Carl from the Simpsons once said:
Carl: "I heard we're goin' to Ape Island"
Lenny: "Yeah, to capture a giant ape. I wish we were going to Candy Apple Island" Charlie: "Candy Apple Island? Whatta they got there?"
Carl: "Apes. But they're not so big"
In this case, they're pretty dang smart.

7.29.2011

Source Code - Movie Review

source code

Source Code
view trailer
****-

Source Code is one of those movies where you're constantly trying to understand what's going on, and long after it's over you're still trying to figure out the exact same thing. I like movies like that. It doesn't always make sense, and I'm pretty sure this one doesn't, but I found myself thinking about it for a long time until I found myself thinking of ways it could make sense. Suddenly, I was the sci-fi author, and that's the kind of transformation I look for when I go to the theater.

The film begins with Lt. Colter Stevens (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), who awakes in a wreckage only to be mentally transported into the mind of a dead man for eight minutes at a time. Why this is happening to him and how is a mystery to him, but the guy was trained to take orders and that's what he does. Not that he has much of a choice. His superiors communicate to him through a small screen and tell him that the man who died was a victim of a terrorist bombing on a train that same morning. His job is to revisit the man's memory over and over again until he has identified the terrorist so that the army can intervene before he strikes again, this time with a dirty bomb in a major city.

The film then leans from sci-fi into a mystery, and then, with the introduction to the dead man's girlfriend, into a romance. Colter likes her too, but with only eight minutes what difference could that make?

The film has so much going on and so much ground to cover in such a short amount of time, that it's a miracle any sense is made of it at all. The writer and director, Duncan Jones, has proven his sci-fi capabilities before with my personal favorite Moon. Here he's dealing with tangent worlds splintering off into infinite loops while juggling time travel, a political thriller and a romance. Think about it too hard, and things might unravel, but watch the movie and the loose threads won't matter. There are enough problems to deal with to avoid the question of how.

This might be a guy movie, but I suspect the inclusion of Jake Gyllenhaal could make it easier for the ladies. His performance is great, and I suspect this character could have been Donnie Darko all grown up. From the trailers, I expected a fair amount of action, and it does deliver, but what I didn't expect was the certain haunting feeling that the movie acquires. It takes science and adapts it to life after death. It takes physicality and removes it from the importance of influence. It doesn't matter if the whole concept makes complete sense, it only matters if the concept makes some sense out of you. This is a film I would be glad to revisit, even if I am just thinking about it.

Splice - Movie Review

splice

Splice
**---

Now, I for one am a huge fan of splicing when it comes to horror and sci-fi movies. After all, it worked great in The Fly, but then again, The Fly did have Jeff Goldblum. Splice earns it's own points with the casting of Adrien Brody, who appears to like alternating between roles in films like the Pianist with roles in films like, say, Predators. Luckily, this film is a bit more scientifically based than what Predators gave us, but then again, this is no Michael Creighton novel. No one is going to leave the theater saying "OH GOD IT'S SOMEWHERE OUT THERE RIGHT NOW AND IT WANTS TO BREED WITH ME," whether or not they're saying that in fear or unbridled anticipation.

Splice is about two hot-shot geneticists who make somewhat disconcerting wiener monsters in the name of science. This is done (you guessed it) by splicing the genes of various animals together. On the brink of finding the cure to cancer, the two decide to secretly go the distance and throw some human DNA in there as well, 'cause why not? The two scientists Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) waste no time and soon have a little bundle of razor-teethed joy scrambling around the office. They do what any sensible scientist would and make it wear a dress.

The little tyke is soon named Dren (Nerd spelled backwards), but she grows up fast. Like any sensible parents, Clive and Elsa lock her in a barn to keep her from staying out too late, which doesn't quite work when they realize she has some bird DNA in her too. With no one around it's easy to see that Dren wants some company. Perhaps a little bit too much, especially when it comes to Clive, who in my opinion, probably liked the alien girl from Avatar a bit too much.

For a horror film, the movie is not quite scary enough. For a science fiction film, it doesn't delve quite deep enough. The movie just hovers on the surface somewhere between laughably absurd and interestingly absurd. If honed a bit better, it could have asked a lot of interesting questions. The subject is timely, especially considering that we live in an age where scientists have just made a dog that glows in the dark. Had the story been a little less compromising, it could have been a thoughtful piece. Had it compromised more, it could have been a great mindless horror flick. The special effects are for the most part rather impressive. All things considered, the acting is quite good. Overall though, it's rather forgettable.

7.05.2011

Do You Like My Hat?

zakhat

I made it myself! Well, mostly. Beth actually helped out by making the pom pom and adding the red trim at the bottom. The rest however was mostly crocheted with a pen while I was at work. Now I just have to learn to use a real crochet hook again. It turned out a bit bigger than I expected, considering that I have to duck through doorways when it's standing upright, but that's how I like it.

my hat, a cat, and a doggle

I wore it while making Beth's birthday breakfast in the kitchen and pretended I was a Keebler Elf while whipping up some crepes. We're both 24 now, which is kind of weird, but I think we're getting to a place in our lives where we have a better idea of what we want to accomplish, which for me is finishing the last page of Where's Waldo. After that, who knows where we'll end up.

7.04.2011

It's the Fourth of July


This is an American flag right? ...No? Dang.


AMERICAAAUUUH!

It's the Fourth of July today and I thought it was time for the Awkward Unicorn to give a few top tips on how to keep your displays of patriotism safe. You know, for the children.

#1. DO NOT EAT A MEXICAN POPSICLE FROM THE DOLLAR STORE LABELED AS "MANGO AND CHILI FLAVOR"

This piece of advice comes from personal experience. If you happen to come across a popsicle labeled with the promising combination of both Mango and Chili, just walk the other way. Trust me. This terribly awful dessert appears to have been mistakenly labeled, as the only taste I can detect is that of human sweat scrapped off the back of a laborer working out front of Home Depot. With an aftertaste that is reminiscent of spicy sea water, I'm not altogether sure this popsicle is healthy or sanitary.

#2. PLEASE DON'T THROW FIRECRACKERS AT ME

Although it actually hasn't happened yet, I'm really paranoid that someone's going to throw firecrackers at me. If you happen to see me ducking every time a moving vehicle comes my way, don't be alarmed, and don't throw a firecracker at me. Again, stop throwing firecrackers. I've actually never seen anyone do this, so I'm certain I'll be the first person it ever happens to. So if you think about it, just don't. Don't. Seriously. Also, do not suddenly point at my feet and yell "FIRECRACKER! FIRECRACKER!" as I will probably believe you and scream like a japanese school girl.

#3. IF YOU HAPPEN TO KNOW HOW TO SET UP A TRAMPOLINE COME OVER TO MY HOUSE

Okay, so this isn't so much of a "safety tip" as it is just me trying to set up a trampoline that was given to me for my birthday. I have a box of various sized springs and I'm not sure where they all go or if they serve any kind of purpose at all. I tried piecing things together, but I ended up with a boat, and boats do not bounce and I wanted to bounce for the Fourth of July. If you're angry that this isn't actually a very good safety tip then here:

#4. NO THROWING FIRECRACKERS ON THE TRAMPOLINE

One might hit me and that is NOT COOL.

#5. SOME DOGS DO NOT LIKE FIREWORKS

I learned this last night when my neighbors were celebrating. From all the barking in my house I deduced that dogs do not like fireworks, and therefore gave up my plans to strap sparklers to our Corgi. I suggest you do the same. Although I do recommend you imagine a Corgi holding a sparkler, as that is what America is truly about.

#6. DO NOT LIGHT FIREWORKS NEAR THE HOUSE OF MY CRANKY NEIGHBOR

Although some of my neighbors seem to like festivities, if you're looking for a place to celebrate tonight I do not recommend a place near the yard of the cranky old guy who lives on the other side of my block, as he occasionally likes you yell "Hey you no good kids, git off of mah property! Yeah, that's it! Scram! Scram now! Git out! Go!" And will continue to yell long after you're gone.

#7. WEAR SUNBLOCK

Although this tip doesn't always apply to nighttime festivities, I still suggest it nonetheless, especially seeing that I have two strange circular sunburns on each of my hands. I'm not sure how they got there, but suspect it was some kind of weird Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind situation. Solution? Always wear sunblock.

6.03.2011

Cartoons

Well, this just about made my day much brighter.

6.02.2011

Devil - Movie Review

devil-2010

Devil
***--
click to view trailer

Don't worry about me if I just so happen to be watching a lot of scary movies lately. My wife is out of town and as they say, "when the cat's away, the mice will poop their pants in fear." Or something like that. This time I decided to take a look at M. Night Shyamalan's inspired Devil (which I should clarify is actually directed by John Dowdle). I for one enjoy films like this, films that require little in the way of set-pieces and require a skilled hand to make compelling. The film isn't perfect, in fact, I completely understand why it was met with low-to-mediocre reviews, but there is something unique to this film that managed to earn more stars than I expected to award.

I should first point out that the film should never have been titled "Devil." Why? Because I don't like it. Do I not like it because it scares me? Yes. Just go with "Elevator," M. Night, or "Up (not to be confused with Pixar's Up because this one involves the Devil on an elevator)." But it is what it is. After a pretty great credit sequence, the film begins with a group of five strangers hopping onto an elevator. One is a businessman, one a repairman, another a little old lady, and the last a pretty lady who's entire life is pretty much based upon being pretty. Of course, once the doors close the elevator screeches to a halt and the four are left to ponder what in the world is scratching their backs whenever the lights start flickering. If my wife was there she probably would've just assumed it was one of my terrible back rubs - HEYO! Wha haappened?!

A private detective is lucky enough to be on the spot after a suicide took place at the same building only hours beforehand. What a coincidence. He's a damaged man with a dark past. His family was killed in a hit and run five years ago. And yes, he's a recovering alcoholic. If you're taking shots based upon horror movie cliche's you're probably recovering too.

All this to say that Devil is still very much engaging. What in the world is actually going on here? Will everyone actually die? Sure, some of these characters are a tad shallow, but beneath their shallow waters is an emotional depth you can't help but connect with because, let's face it, some things are cliche because they're true and they work. Despite having a title that sounds very evil, Devil shows an incredible amount of redemption. This is, I think, one of the sweetest horror films I've seen in a long time. Yes, it still has some scary moments. Yes, people die. Yet unlike most horror films, it ends with a note of salvation, which to me was a breath of fresh air after a long time in a very small place. Who knew that a film called Devil could have such good old Christian values? Maybe the name does fit.

Insidious - Movie Review

2011_insidious_006


Insidious
***--
click to view trailer

There is a certain purity to be found in the horror film genre. These are films meant purely to excite, to engage, and to incite a core reaction that's built into our genes. It's a roller ride without leaving the room. For all extensive purposes, Insidious is a great example. It does exactly what it's supposed to do, and often it does it very well. Things pop out at you, things pop out behind you, and things hang around long after they should have.

I honestly, think this is a really one of the most well made horror movies in a long time. That said, I can't help but shake the feeling that this movie was heavily inspired by Drag Me To Hell, a superior film, I think, but I'll get to why later. Insidious is centered around a common happy family who move in to a house that just so happens to have a distant cousin of Darth Maul living in the attic. Their adventurous young boy ventures up there one day only to fall off a reasonably high ladder and slip into a coma. The real problem however, is that the boy doesn't appear to have any brain damage to speak of. Over the next several months he's cared for by his mother, whose frequent piano practices are cut short by clattering books, slamming doors, and the sounds of screams coming from the baby monitor. These people seriously need a vacation.

Despite only having a PG-13 rating, Insidious knows how to find it's scares without showing too much. It's far more disturbing than most horror movies that opt for blood and guts, and smarter because of it. The film balances an eerie atmosphere well with sudden scares, borrowing pages from Poltergeist, The Shining, Disney's Haunted Mansion, even videogames like Silent Hill. Expect many things to suddenly appear in places they weren't before, and expect them to be gone on a second glance. So much of this film really works.

The film is smart enough to include a bit of light humor with the introduction of a group of paranormal investigators, two of whom bumble about the house with homemade gadgets made from children's toys. The shock is that they actually get the job done. I personally found the viewfinder to be particularly effective. Their boss, played by the wonderful Lin Shaye, is quick to inform the unlucky parents that their son is trapped in a netherworld called "The Further." This, I should add, is technically a spoiler because it occurs in the final half of the film, but I should also note, an entire netherworld is a lot to cover with only a quarter of a movie left to go. The paranormal investigators work so well because they're really very good characters. I'm not sure I can really say the same for the parents. Mostly they're there to get scared.

The film Drag Me To Hell had a lighthearted spirit to it that served a purpose along with the terror. Something actually happened, and something was actually learned. Yes, Insidious does scare, and does so with a clever spirit aiming to entertain, but there isn't much left to be taken away, or taken to heart. There are some truly great moments here. Some with shocking appearances, some with just downright eerie moments. But much like a roller coaster, it will end, the handle bars will go up, and you'll have to get back in line. At least we'll have the memories.

5.29.2011

I Really Miss This Girl




A week is too long.
Even if she is spending it in Hawaii.

Nice Work There Kitten



Well, many people may not know that there is yet another cat in my life. Her name is Dinah, she's a Siamese, and likes to play with yarn and Georgie Fruit's tail (which Georgie of course hates, but puts up with). There are many great things about Dinah. For one, she likes to sleep on our pillow at night so it appears like I'm wearing a cat as a hat in the morning. At the same time however, she's also a cat that likes to climb my leg with razor sharp claws or crawl into small spaces and cause trouble.

Today I returned home from the park to discover and extremely unpleasant odor emanating from our room, so unpleasant in fact that I would say it literally smelled like poop. The door was open, as it usually is for Dinah to have easy access to her litter box, but apparently this made no difference to Dinah who looked up at me from her chair and slowly blinked.

I took a quick survey of the room and looked for any noticeable piles of excrement. Seeing none, I quickly picked up Dinah and took a whiff of her hair while wondering if there was actually poo in the room or if Dinah simply smelled like a homeless man.

If there's one thing to know about me it's that I have a large nose, and taking a cue from the Fruit Loops commercials of yore, I decided to follow it. This method, I soon realized, would become a lot worse before it got any better. Following the pungent odor, I soon arrived at our dresser and gave a silent prayer that she didn't mistake my open drawer of clothing for a litter box. Luckily I dodged a bullet, but momentarily wondered if what I was smelling was my dirty pile of socks. No, it was definitely poop. And it was somewhere. The mystery of the missing poop remained to be solved.

Suddenly I noticed the tiny crevice beneath the dresser. It was too dark to see, but I realized that there was a large slip of paper that I could grab with the ends of my fingers. Pulling it out, I discovered a sizable deposit of pure untainted cat poop, so sizable in fact that it almost seemed to rival Dinah herself. Had she simply been hoarding it? Did I need to call A&E and get a documentary crew to film this? So many questions ran through my mind.

In any case, it gave me a reason clean my room with copious amounts of Lysol, and another reason to write about cat poop, which really is the entire reason I created this blog. In conclusion, you just read an entire story about me finding cat poop in my room. You're welcome.

5.28.2011

Top Ten Best Films of 2010

Now that we're half way into 2011, it's the perfect time to catch up on the best films of 2010. Granted, I haven't seen all that's out there. I'm pretty sure I missed out on at least half a dozen Tyler Perry movies, but already assuming that those take the cake let's look at the rest.


BEST SCIENCE FICTION FILM

Nominees:
-Never Let Me Go
-Monsters
-Daybreakers



WINNER: NEVER LET ME GO

Much like Gattaca, Never Let Me Go is very much a sci-fi film in concept, yet it's smart enough to focus upon the human condition. Yes, the concept of clones being harvested for use by society isn't unheard of, but unlike Michael Bay's action flick The Island, this film doesn't feature a copious amount of soda ads and explosions. Never Let Me Go is a tender examination of life in it's fleeting passage. There are no grand escape plans, in fact, there really isn't very much action to speak of. It's about people making the most of the time they have, or regretting the time they have wasted.


FILM WITH THE COOLEST CREDITS


Nominees:
-Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
-Enter The Void
-Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
-Despicable Me

WINNER: ENTER THE VOID

For me this year marks as a breakthrough in movie credits. Whereas I used to not care at all about "reading" during a movie, now it's becoming something to look forward to. Does that mean I'm getting old? Despicable Me did a great job by including a short animated segment throughout the credits using a unique and clever camera technique. Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky used a copious amount of elegant fractal designs rendered in beautiful 3D. Scott Pilgrim earned extra points by starting with 8bit graphics and nearly beat out the competition. Meanwhile, Enter The Void (which was released in France in 2009, but here in the US in 2010) blew my mind apart. If I had an award for "Most Drugged-Out-Insane-Scary-But-Pretty-Freaking-Awesome Film of the Year" (which I could, now that I think about it) this would take the cake. For your enjoyment I have posted it below.




BEST HORROR FILM


Nominees:
-Devil
-House of the Devil
-Another movie with the word "Devil" in it
-Another film not titled with the word "Devil" but still involving the Devil
-Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family



WINNER: BURIED

All in all, 2010 wasn't an altogether amazing year for horror films, but we did get some great moments. We had the promising opportunity to watch three skiers get stuck on a ski lift in Frozen, an entire town go haywire and nuked in The Crazies, and Ethan Hawk take blood in his coffee with Daybreakers, but the one thriller that really had me on my toes was the minimalist Buried. Somehow within an eight foot coffin, enough action took place to keep me from ever tearing my eyes off the screen. Ryan Reynolds gave a terrific performance to complement an equally clever script, all tied up with an ending that will haunt you for weeks.


BEST ANIMATED FILM

Nominees:
-A Town Called Panic
-Toy Story 3
-The Illusionist
-Despicable Me



WINNER: THE ILLUSIONIST

If there's one thing that 2010 has taught us about animation, it's that cartoons can be dark too. Toy Story 3 closed this magnificent trilogy with the sad fact that everyone grows up, but my pull-string Woody doll is still somewhere out there. Despicable Me shared some laughs by featuring a grumpy villain with adorable yellow minions as the protagonist. The exception to the rule was A Town Called Panic, which despite it's sensory overload sensibilities, was thoroughly charming and hilarious. All in all I was most blown away by Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist, a melancholy exploration of the relationship between an aging magician and his young female companion. The film is beautifully animated in a way that only hand drawn animation can be. It is focused on subtlety and nuance, and how that carries into the lives we lead. Altogether, the film is magic.


BEST COMEDY


Nominees:
-Date Night
-Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
-Going The Distance
-Death At A Funeral



WINNER: DATE NIGHT

It was a somewhat rough year for comedy. I think the world can only shuffle the cast of The Thirty Year Old Virgin around so many times before things get a little stale. We had Get Him To The Greek, which I have started three times but for some reason never feel compelled enough to finish, and Hot Tub Time Machine, which I'm told repeatedly is funny but turned off after the first five minutes of non-stop cursing, vomit, and poop jokes (not that vomit and poop jokes can't be funny). Luckily we did have some highlights. The new Americanized version of Death At A Funeral turned out surprisingly well, and in some ways almost runs smoother than the original. Going the Distance was perfectly charming, and of course Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was a visual feast with special charm. Somehow though the formula for Date Night just worked. What could easily have been forgettable, Date Night is even still, after another viewing, a very funny movie. Observant and charming, the film manages to tie together common marriage dynamics with absurd action sequences. Steve Carrell and Tina Fey are equals in both delivering lines and physical comedy, and as if that wasn't enough, they actually make you care about these characters. This is a film that makes you feel good after you watch it, and after a year of films like Black Swan, The Social Network and 127 Hours, I really needed it. Speaking of which...


MOST DEPRESSING FILM OF 2010

Nominees:
-Buried
-Black Swan
-Never Let Me Go
-Blue Valentine
-The Road



WINNER: BLUE VALENTINE

Although the end of Buried almost made me cry in the shower, it carried with it a sense of bitter satisfaction. But good gravy, if there's one film of 2010 to make you want to take a smoke break it's Blue Valentine, a film that chronicles the disintegration of a marriage between two people that once were quite happy. It's a good movie, but good in the way that Revolution Road was good. You'll never want to watch it again. Top this one off with a chaser of Date Night to make yourself feel better.


BEST MOVIE ABOUT SPEECH THERAPY

Nominee:
-The Kings Speech



WINNER: THE KINGS SPEECH

Finally, I have a reason to have an award category for speech therapy. The King's Speech was one of the unexpected highlights of 2010. Filled with wonderful characters, this is a film that makes you feel good in the best way possible. Here we see people genuinely trying to help each other, and in the process become good friends. A fantastic true story beautifully filmed and terrifically acted.


BEST DOCUMENTARY


Nominees:
-Freakonomics
-Exit Through The Gift Shop
-Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
-Art of the Steal
-All of the 20 or so documentaries having something to do with the education system



WINNER: EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP

This one was kind of a dead giveaway, but Exit Through The Gift Shop was filled with so many characters, so many ideas, and with so much strong feeling that it simply remains unforgettable. This isn't to say that the other documentaries of the past year should be forgotten. With the numerous films documenting the broken educational system of the United States, we're given something new to worry about as opposed to all of the global warming documentaries we've collected over the past two years. Finally, something else we have idea how to solve. For those looking to distract themselves, we also had a documentary about Joan Rivers, which was actually pretty interesting. One highlight for me was Freakonomics, which, based off the book of the same title, played out like an extended episode of This American Life, only based a tad more statistical data. Did you ever hear about the girl named "Temptress?" It's worth looking into. Exit Through The Gift Shop however was just so much to think about. After all, how do you deal with man who wants to make art, but isn't an artist? What is the influence of hype on art, and can hype itself have an artistic merit? Does success cheapen the meaning of art, or the importance of the artist? Maybe the artist who blocks out his face is actually the only one who should have the final say. Blahhhh. I need to take a nap now.


BEST ADAPTATION


Nominees:
-True Grit
-The Illusionist
-Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
-The Road



WINNER: TRUE GRIT

Yes, Scott Pilgrim was visually one of the best things to come out of 2010, but as far as adaptations go I can't say it completely worked as a film. Entertaining as it was, it played out like an entire television series over the course of two hours. The Road was a faithful adaptation that stuck very close to its original pages, but somehow lacked a great deal of the emotional intensity that Cormac McCarthy injected into his story. True Grit however wasn't just an adaptation of an older film or story, but an adaptation that encompassed the entire era of justice in the west. Infused with equal measures of quirky comedy, intense drama, and bittersweet relationships, True Grit works. It's unfortunate that I couldn't come across enough western films to set a category aside, but luckily this one was all I needed.


BEST OVERALL FILM

Nominees:
-Inception
-The Kings Speech
-The Illusionist
-Never Let Me Go
-True Grit



WINNER: INCEPTION

Inception created a world unlike any other and carried with it a story so sprawling and dense that it's a miracle alone that the film is even comprehensible on the first viewing. Featuring strong performances, beautiful visuals, excellent editing, and that loud "BRAAAAAAAGH!" noise, Inception works on every level. And there are a LOT of levels. It's not only the best film of the year, but I'm willing to say it's one of the top films of the decade.

5.27.2011

An Ode to 4th Grade Favorite Movies

Today I asked each of my students to write a poetic "Ode" to their favorite movie. Enjoy.


"My favorite is The Terminator.
He is awesome.
He hates blossoms."



For some reason I was surprised to find the word "blossoms" used at all in one of these poems. I asked him what he meant by it and he simply replied saying "Because the Terminator hates flowers." Makes sense...


"My favorite movie is Holes,
because they have to dig like a lot of holes.
I like it because they dig a lot of holes."



Simple, yet, effective.


"Once upon a time,
there was an army.
They fought all of the people,
and never died.
Then they all died.
From CANCER."



Although this poem is neither an "ode" nor about any film I can think of, I find some sort of promise in it. I should note that the word "CANCER" was written in bold across the entirety of the page. Very dramatic.

Here's an epic piece that spanned both the front and the back of the construction paper:


"Ode to me, The Ninja.
I have ninja stars.
I can kill you.
I have the assassin star,
and the acid star.
I can kill any ninja of the ninjas.
I'm the master of ninjas.
I'm a cool ninja.
I can sneak up on any ninja on earth.
Be careful.
I can assassinate you.
So keep an eye on me.
'Cause I can sneaky camouflage in anything.
You can't get by me.
I'm the awesome ninja."



I think there's a pretty good Die Antwoord song in there.

This next one was written by one of the girls.



"My favorite movie is Monsters Inc.
Because there are a lot of closets
and I need a lot of closets
for all my clothes."



All in all, I think it was a success.

5.14.2011

More Poetry By Students Who Hate To Write Poetry

In an attempt to further captivate my 4th grade students with the wonderful world of poetry I decided to have them write about their favorite foods. I assumed that I would receive numerous entries reflecting their love for the spicy chips known as "Taki's" (an outlawed food that is often bartered among the children in a strange sort of black market for candy), but was instead delighted to find numerous poems dedicated to pizza.

Enjoy.


"Pepperoni's are red.
Cheese is Yellow.
Sauce is also red.
Dough is white.
That makes pizza."

"Pizza is my favorite food.
It is so cheesy
and pepperoniee."

"Bread is white,
Meat is brownish,
Mac is yellow."

"My favorite food
is ice cream.
Dessert is my favorite time.
I like to eat ice cream
for my favorite food."

"Favorite strawberries
are so good,
they make you want more.
They are so so juicy.
Whenever you take a bite
Juice comes out."

"My pizza is a feast,
and is also a feast,
so it is a feast."

"Ice cream is my favorite dessert.
You can make it carmelly or chocolatey."

"Pizza is cheesy,
and is delicious,
because it is cheesy."

5.04.2011

4th Grade Haiku's

In teaching my class of 16 fourth and fifth grade students poetry, today I introduced them to the world of Haiku's.

Behold.

"We went to the beach,
The beach is so so so fun,
so so so so beach."
-Elexia, 4th Grade

"I won the fun race,
It was really really fun,
I won a medal."
-Preston, 4th Grade

"I love my dog he
ate my homework. Now I don't
have to do it. Yay!"
-Alex, 4th Grade

"My dog is so good
but sometimes he pees on me
but I still love him."
-John, 4th Grade

"My cat is so fat.
He eats like four pan-cakes. And,
He also eats poo."
-Carlos, 4th Grade

Genius.

Jogging For My Life



As a city, Portland managed surprisingly well to quarantine the true crazies from the somewhat normal citizens of the world. If you were to stay in the North West part of town you could enjoy a gelato while listening to a well-dressed hipster complain about dog leashes interfering with his daily bike route, but stray just a block too far past Burnside Avenue and you could be shopping in a Goodwill next to a smelly overweight homeless lady who dyed her hair neon yellow using house paint. True story.

The most common stranger I came upon was that of the late twenty-something man whose biggest priority in life was trying to figure out a way to convert his food stamps into cheap alcohol. It just so happened that while Beth and I ventured along a nearby nature trail that we came across a group of these individuals, who, despite it only being three in the afternoon, were already fairly well sauced.

"HEY! You two!" One of them yelled while stumbling. "It's this guys birthday today! Guess how old he is!"

After briefly looking back to make sure they were addressing us, we then shrugged our shoulders.

"He just turned 21!! WOO!"

"Wow. Congratulations." I said, fully aware that all of these men were well into their thirties.

"Can you believe this guy is only 21?!"

"Nope."

"We're gonna draaaaank!"

"Awesome." I said, as I started walking slightly faster.

We continued along the trail and in the meantime tried to forget about the slightly disturbing interaction we had just undergone. We distracted ourselves by saving the stray slugs who wandered aimlessly on the path and risked being trampled by the high traffic of bicyclists, dogs, and joggers. After a while we were so overwhelmed by the fresh air and lush greenery, that we had completely forgotten that the only way back home was directly past the drunken birthday party.

"They're probably gone by now though." I said. "You think?"

They weren't. From around the corner we could already hear the crashing sounds of broken bottles and obnoxious high-fives.

"Okay. I have an idea." I said. "According to Portland etiquette, people don't bother joggers, so if we just start running and look really determined to finish our work-out, we'll be fine."

"But Zack," Beth said, "You never run. Ever."

"Well it looks like there's a first time for everything."

After mentally preparing ourselves, we began running around the corner while breathing heavily and furrowing our brows. I even went so far as to look at my wrist to check our time, even though I don't wear a watch.

Then disaster struck.

After a single yard of jogging my foot got lodged on an exposed tree root and immediately twisted itself. Falling face forward, a cloud of dust exploded out from under the weight of my body hitting the ground.

"HOLY F*%&!" One of the drunkards yelled, while laughing. "Did you guys see that?"

I quickly jumped up and waved. "I'm alright, I'm alright!"

"Yo, we're in no condition to drive you to a hospital bro!" Another chimed in, also laughing.

Wincing in pain, I limped towards Beth who slowly shook her head.

We wandered out of the forest as we heard the sounds of laughing ebb in the distance. Rubbing my swollen ankle back home, I started to wonder if it was just everyone in this town that was a little bit weird, or if, in fact, I was one of the crazies.

4.12.2011

Corgi Lemonade



Being in need of money, I resorted to my one career choice that really seemed to pay off when I was in elementary school. I decided to re-open my lemonade stand. True, such an undertaking was challenged by the fact that I'm twenty three years old, have a mustache and am married, but somewhere deep inside of me I knew that I could pull it off.

Realizing that I needed a hook for the overwhelmingly Mexican populace of Visalia, I stole the family dog and promptly got to work on my sign for "Corgi Lemonade." I didn't quite think about whether people would question if by "Corgi Lemonade" I really meant "Corgi Pee In Styrofoam Cups," but I assumed that the matter would be pushed out their minds once they laid their eyes on the adorable furry mess that we call Charlie.



Well, after three hours and a scorching sunburn, I had made a total of three dollars. It might not sound like a lot, but that's at least 12 quarters. Which still isn't a lot, but it's something. Maybe not much, and certainly not enough to reason with Beth that it was a good idea, but it was something nonetheless. Charlie meanwhile kept busy by barking at the passing cars and gobbling honey roasted sunflower seeds while making distinct pig sounds.

I'm not sure why I was so dedicated to the idea. I guess it was just something I decided I had to do. In any case, it was a good way to spend a Saturday.

3.01.2011

Drive Angry - Movie Review




Drive Angry
**---
view trailer

The experience of watching Drive Anrgy is just about the same as standing in the gun section of Wall-Mart for two hours. You'll find yourself seeing lots of balding fat men wearing sweaty t-shirts with stretched American Flags emblazoned on the center, and probably intermittently yelling "F*&% YEAH!" for no particular reason, except that they can, and that's really the only reason Drive Angry exists. It was made because somebody can, and also because somebody will also pay to see it. Like me for instance.

I for one watched Drive Angry in an empty theater while eating Taco Bell that I sneaked in under my jacket. I would recommend you do the same, if only the 3D effects didn't make me want to puke partially digested Cheesy Gordita Crunch into my lap. Drive Angry is a very bad movie, made to be so, but still, really quite bad. This is a film that hopes to evoke the golden age of cinema known as the grindhouse era, which really only exists because people have always been making bad movies and were once doing so on very small budgets, and apparently fake blood is cheap. Now we have 3D. So imagine how much better this era is. Oh wait, they've had 3D for a while now, haven't they?

Well, this fine film stars Ghost Rider, I mean Nicholas Cage, who reprises his role as an escapee from hell to avenge his daughter's death and save his infant granddaughter from being sacrificed by a group of red-neck satanic worshipers. If that doesn't make much sense to you, don't worry, nothing makes sense. The film is a veritable minefield of exploding plot-holes. Or should I say POT-holes! Get it? Drive Angry? I'll let myself out.

Well, the first hole I should specify is that for a film entitled "Drive Angry," Nicholas Cage does a surprisingly small amount of driving angry. In fact, he's not very angry, mostly just mildly inconvenienced that he has to drop his cigar and bottle of Jack to start shooting a group of men armed with whips, chains, and a tazer. I should note, he doesn't drop the woman he is currently engaging in intercourse with. For anyone who hasn't seen Shoot 'Em Up, this is pretty great, for people who have however, they will immediately spend most of the time after this scene thinking about how great that movie was.

As Nick Cage continues his odyssey chasing down a satanic leader who has a penchant for wearing Willy Wonka's jacket and a pentagram necklace (of which he is repeatedly stabbed by throughout the film), he meets the scantily clad Piper who hops into the front seat with a surprising amount of eagerness. Occasionally she may ask a perfectly valid question, such as something along the lines of "How did you just get shot in the head, have a distinct bullet hole in your eye, but are somehow still alive?" which is only resolved by Nicholas Cage saying, "The bullet's still in there. I CAN FEEL IT." How does some of this dialogue take place while they are driving on a bridge that seems to extend endlessly throughout an additional fight scene? I guess now I'm the one asking too many questions.

I should also note that this film includes a diverse range of reaction shots, with most of them occurring awkwardly. What did I expect the woman who had terrible gun-fight sex with Nicholas Cage to say when she was discovered by the cops the next day? Lord only knows, but somehow that was simultaneously exactly and not at all what I expected.

Cage is followed by a mysterious character named "The Accountant," (played by the very good William Fichtner) who, although I assume is perfectly aware that Nicholas Cage can be shot in the head yet still survive, nevertheless convinces police (by repeatedly showing a fake FBI badge) that they should try to shoot him to death. Does any of this make sense? No. But it does happen in 3D, occurs mostly in slow-motion, and involves numerous exploding limbs. So it's still pretty satisfying.

By no means should this movie be watched alone. This is something made for those late nights when you and your friends need something to talk about. It's one of those films that if you're laughing at it, then really, you're just laughing with it, and if you are actually laughing with it, then you're probably missing the point. As such, for a bad movie, it's almost perfect.

2.24.2011

Opening Night

At some point in every man's life, there comes a moment where he has to say, "Screw it. I'm walking home." For me that moment came on opening night of my play. Although I wasn't paid in cash for my performance, I did receive a large tub of jelly beans and a single rose, which I heartily accepted with an air of excitement.

I took both of my gifts along with me only to stand in front of the theater wondering where in the world my ride was. Had I known my ride was still in Fresno, clubbing with his cousins and apparently taking shots off of scantily clad women, I probably would have taken matters into my own hands much sooner, but after circling the block for two hours I had to realize I was on my own.

I had no cell phone, after leaving it with my wife who had left that morning for a trip to Los Angeles, and after paying fifty cents to a pay phone that had apparently been disconnected in the early 1990's, I realized I had no way to contact anyone on the outside world. A few trips to the receptionist at a nearby hotel proved useless after realizing that I had no knowledge of my in-laws phone number. So I continued to wait.

Somewhere, deep in my mind, I rationalized that my situation would be resolved in the same way my situations of being lost in a supermarket were resolved as a child. I would simply wait in the same exact spot until someone realized that I was missing. And maybe cry. Around midnight I began to realize that this was not the same situation.

At this time a friendly black man approached me and, laughing to himself, said in a raspy voice, "Boy's got a single rose for a lady! All you need is one my man! All you need is one!"

I laughed back and nodded, slightly hoping this was enough of a reply. It wasn't.

"Girl's always ask for a dozen, but you know what happens? They die, my man! They die!"

"Ha, I know what you mean." I said, quickly nodding while slowly backing away.

"Say my man, I only have six dollars and my car needs gas. You think you could spare a few bucks?"

Realizing I had only two dollars in my wallet and that this guy probably didn't own a car, I apologized and started walking home.

Although I've spent some time in New York, here it's a bit harder to find a taxi. Also, I'm cheap. Really cheap. So I never really wanted to find one in the first place. It wouldn't be until the next day that I would find out that the distance between my theater and home was just about four and a half miles, which to a reasonably in-shape person is perfectly fine, but to someone who prefers to play video games and uses stumbleupon is basically the same as the Oregon Trail. Would I end up with dysentery? Only time could tell...

The town I live in is mostly known as the agricultural capitol of California, so I was surprised to come across a guy twirling fire within the first three blocks of main street.

"Wow. That guy is crazy!" I thought. While I held a jug of jelly beans, a single rose, and was wearing heavy makeup and eye-liner.

I continued walking, and having been without food for a mere few hours I already began hallucinating that the person walking behind me, who was blasting techno through their headphones, was not only following me but was playing their music to the exact pace of my feet.

About half-way I decided, probably poorly, that if I was going to go through with this that I might as well be mildly intoxicated and bought a beer at 7-Eleven. Still wearing eye-liner.

Now, slightly intoxicated, and dehydrated from said intoxication, the trip slowly became less scary, then more exciting, and then as a result, a little more scary again.

Nevertheless, I made it home. It's a difficult realization, understanding that you really need someone else to count on when times are hard, but at least I'm glad I made it back safely when I realized that I could make it home on my own. Next time though I'll be sure that there are two cell phones in order before I leave.