Saturday, January 27, 2007

Slate rundown and Football!

So I used to, how do I put this, not be the biggest fan of Slate's previous Film and TV reviewers (David Edelstein and Virginia Heffernan, respectively). But I am on board with the current twosome, Dana Stevens and Troy Patterson (especially Stevens). Currently, Stevens has a solid review denouncing the pseudo-Tarantino lemming that is SMOKIN' ACES. I haven't seen this movie, but if you're looking for a second opinion I'd suggest Jonathan Rosenbaum's capsule review which is even more strident. I understand a certain segment of the population (dumb kids, usually male though, surprisingly, of all ages) enjoys amoral, nihilistic, insipid, ultraviolent shoot-em-ups injected with explosions (and that Jerry Bruckheimer owes his mansion, jet, diamond encrusted diamonds, etc to this segment). But I'm sorry, it doesn't make these empty exercises in camerawork, editing, and pyrotechnics any good or worthwhile.

I'm a big fan of THE OFFICE but recently I might even say that I'm a bigger fan of 30 ROCK. Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin head up a high-larious cast and the show's writing is crisp and witty. The show effortlessly tackles everything from the absurdity of corporate "synergy" product placement to the absurdity that is Liz Lemon's on-and-off again romance with the Beeper King. And the show brings about funny line after funny line in everything it tackles. In any case, Slate's TV reviewer (Patterson) seems to agree and has a nice review of 30 ROCK, placing the very, very talented Tina Fey front and center.

And now for some football. I'm sure everyone is gearing up for the Super Bowl. I think it will be a solid game though I'm not sure it will be as competitive as the Colts/Pats AFC championship. I'll have a prediction some time next week. But I just want to type a few words in defense of the Saints. Last week I thought the Saints would beat the Bears, and the reality of the game resulted in a blowout by the Bears. However, if you look at the the turnover discrepancy (4 to 0 in favor of the Bears) you'll see how the game turned strongly in favor for the Bears. And only 1 turnover was a Drew Brees interception, and it was late in the game when the tide had already turned. The 3 back breaking turnovers were fumbles. Which is a bit lucky, but also goes to show how tough this Chicago defense really is. I'm not sure the Bears can do the same in the Super Bowl, but that is definitely a path they should be focusing on.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

NFL Playoff Picks

I'm going with the Saints over the Bears. I guess it will be cold as hell in Chicago but everyone will be sending the Saints warm thoughts. The Saints offense is simply too versatile and strong for the good, but depleted Bears defense. And the underrated Saints defense will put enough pressure on the Rexy one. Though, the Saints defense seems to give up the big play which is Rexy's specialty. In any case, Saints over the Bears 31-24.

In the late game I'm going with Colts over the Pats. This is mainly because of my pro-Colts and anti-Pats bias. I mean seriously, it's about time Dungy, Harrison, and LaserRocketArm got to the playoffs. And it's about time the Dynastic Pats lost a game (especially after that partial gimme by lady luck against the Chargers). But there's a bit of analysis in my pick as well. Nobody really knows how, (perhaps by adding the Bob Sanders coefficient into the cover-2 formula) but the Colts defense has recently become spectacular. Especially stopping the run. However, this means for the Pats the game will be in Brady's hands. Unfortunately, the Golden Boy hasn't been so shiny recently. And the Colts secondary may step up as well. In any case, Colts over the Pats 24-21.

I hope everyone has a great weekend.


I finished reading Alan Moore's WATCHMEN (illustrated by Dave Gibbons) a week or more ago. I've waited a short time before posting a review because this graphic novel is the type of fiction that stays with you long after you've finished reading it. It is a powerful, insightful, thoroughly entertaining work of fiction. If the thought of a gritty, noirish, retelling of the Superheroes story set in an alternative Cold War USA is the type of story that catches your interest, then WATCHMEN is definitely for you. But even if you find this to be a little too comic-booky (or geeky), WATCHMEN is still the type of fiction that will engage and move you. And that's because the book is a tour de force.

One of the reasons I read WATCHMEN is because I wanted to experience the genre of graphic novels. I think graphic novels are a wonderful medium. Especially because I feel they inhabit a space between moving pictures (film, tv) and the written word. The cinematic quality of graphic novels is something I find thoroughly appealing. And WATCHMEN certainly does not disappoint in this regard. In fact, WATCHMEN is known for its amazing pictorials, filled with great detail, superb action, and interesting motifs. The WATCHMEN is also known for its insightful, complex, tense, and dramatic story and plot. In other words, as far as graphic novels go, WATCHMEN definitely takes the medium to striking heights.

I simply cannot say enough good things about WATCHMEN. I'd highly, highly recommend reading about this wonderful graphic novel and for those even slightly interested, run out and buy it immediately. It is simply a captivating read.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy MLK Day!

I hope everyone had a wonderful MLK Day!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is a very special person in my book. He fought for equality and justice and the good of society. He gave his life to the struggle. But not before his words and teachings were indelibly sorched into the world. So that future generations would never forget the struggle and would always be able to learn of one man's dream of a better tomorrow. Unfortunately, sometimes that tomorrow seems ages away. But I hope, one day soon, that we wake up to that tomorrow.

Today there was a rare display of his papers and a couple corporate donations to the National Mall MLK memorial. I think this memorial should have been constructed years ago. MLK is without a doubt one of the most important figures of recent US (and world) history. To not have a prominent memorial for him in DC, next to Jefferson and Lincoln, is almost shameful.

To end, for those looking for some absolutely amazing pictures of MLK and the civil rights movement check out Slate's Today's Pictures section.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Who's Ready For Some Football?

If you're a football fan you've probably viewed some stellar games the last two weeks. The Boise State vs OU game was simply spectacular. And then the Florida Gators stridently upset "The" Ohio State Buckeyes. The "the" always cracks me up.

And in the NFL there were some solid playoff matchups. The Cowboys unluckily lost to the Seahawks when Romo botched the hold. And he almost ran it in for the W but was stopped short by a great open field tackle. The other NFC game was also close as the Eagles outbattled the Giants. This weekend's games seem to hold even more intrigue and a whole lot of fans will definitely be watching. And even though no one cares, here are my predictions. I like Drew Brees. I like Deuce. I like Reggie Bush. I like that other Saints rookie Colston. So I'm definitely rooting for the Saints, but I must admit that Westbrook has been impressive and it will be close. Nevertheless, Saints over Eagles. The other Saturday game, Indy vs Balt, is one in which I have no clue as to who will win. If I had to guess I would go with the Ravens, but the Indy offense may be good enough to pull off the win. On Sunday, I'm rooting for the Chargers (with the game's best player, LT) over the Pats, but I am well aware that it is not very smart to bet against Belichick, Brady, and the rest of the Pats. I think all of Football America is really excited for these 3 games. I'm not so sure about the 4th, Seattle vs Chicago. Seattle is lucky to have made it this far and Chicago's QB (therefore offensive) problems have reached epic proportions. I am curious to see what happens, and perhaps this will turn out to be a stellar battle. Though I wouldn't bet on it and I have no clue who will win ... the refs? maybe it will end in a tie? In any case, this weekend seems to be a great one, for the most part, for football.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Before I forget ...

As an avid viewer of PBS I'm hardly surprised to find a hidden gem in their programming. One such gem aired on PBS' Independent Lens program, which showcases excellent independent films and videos of every genre and duration.

The gem I'm talking about is called "MY LIFE ... DISORIENTED" and its a refreshing, well-written, and well-acted dramedy of about 30 minutes or so. It deals with the high school and family life of an anxious and memorable Asian-American teenager. There's a complete synopsis on the website. I'll admit that initially I wasn't expecting much, thinking this would be some half-assed ABC after-school special meets the OC. But I was pleasantly surprised to not only thoroughly enjoy it, but to fondly and not so fondly empathize with the high schooler as she navigated her way through a new school and a new stage in her family life.

Unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure how others can view it. They have clips on YouTube or the website, but if it's not the entire thing it probably isn't worth it. They also have a schedule of when it will air on local PBS stations, but I believe most of those airings were in December. But it is still worth checking out the schedule. And then try checking out the Independent Lens schedule for when they'll be repeating the particular broadcast.

If you do get a chance to view it, I highly recommend it. It is truly worthwhile and you will no doubt enjoy it, all the more so if you remember high school.

Let the procrastination begin!

I should probably be finishing up my applications but I've already deemed today to be Lazy Thursday. I know what you're thinking, today is Friday. And that's just how lazy I was yesterday, I couldn't even finish my blog post. Man, I can be lazy.

Unfortunately I did pay a price for this by losing 2 hours of my life to the cinematic void that is the Coen Brothers' INTOLERABLE CRUELTY. And I'll be the first to admit that I can (and have) wasted 2 hours surfing the IMDb or Wikipedia or So it's not really the 2 hours, but that I had to sit through such an intolerably cruel incessantly despicable movie.

Where to start with the craptacular that is INTOLERABLE CRUELTY. Well there is the title which is clearly a warning. The characters are thin and flimsy like cardboard. I guess they're supposed to be farcical cartoons from the cynical world of Coen-land, but they're simplistic, unsympathetic egomaniacs (even for a Coens flick). Since the Coens are involved, one would think the dialogue would be crackling, original, and funny. Far from it, unfortunately. If it's not a cliched, lame joke about lawyers then it's one about gold diggers. I imagine this is a Coens exercise in the romantic comedy genre. The problem is who wants to sit through this exercise of vapid, vain characters and empty, mindless dialogue. On top of this the rom-com elements are as absurd and annoying. I have no clue what the Coens' intent was in making such a terrible mess, other than their smart-alecky try at a bad SNL skit which goes on way too long and gets infinitely worse along the way.

This brings up the Coen Brothers in general. What do you people think about their flicks? I saw BARTON FINK and FARGO a good time ago and initially found them to be funny, idiosyncratic, original, and clever. But looking back on them after viewing a world of truly artful, poignant films, I'm not sure I can say the same about the work of the Coen Brothers (at least the work I've seen). After first viewing their work, I surfed the internet for a few reviews, like I usually do, and was surprised to see Jonathan Rosenbaum (film critic of the Chicago Reader) pan them a bit. But today I have to admit I feel he is mostly right. Rosenbaum is right to point out that there's a condescending bent to most of their work which intertwines with their penchant for smarm. They deal a lot in sick, demented, inept, foolish characters, and perhaps that is how they see people. There's also a forced ambiguity in their flicks (certainly BARTON FINK) that tries to mask itself as deep meaning.

That being said, I remember THE BIG LEBOWSKI being clever and impressive, if a bit meandering and forcedly ambiguious. I also enjoyed O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? though perhaps it was the enchanting music. For whatever it is worth, Rosenbaum found LEBOWSKI to be their best effort while calling O BROTHER "a piece of pop nihilism" and their worst.

In any case, I'm just curious to see what everyone else's take is on the work of the Coen Brothers.

And, once again, stay away from INTOLERABLE CRUELTY.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I guess the Holiday Season is coming to an end. And I guess 2006 has come to an end. 2006 was an up and down year for me, but mostly good. And especially because I got into blogging and was lucky enough to make some wonderful blog buddies. Anyway, this is going to be a smorgasbord (I actually spelled it correctly on my first try, hooray) of a post ... that might actually turn into two posts.

Speaking of the end of 2006, I guess I'm a year older. I don't really feel any older but I, usually, feel like an old man anyway. One recent event that has me a bit worried about getting old, is that I watched ANCHORMAN and barely laughed. I mean I chuckled here and there, but for the most part I found it unfunny ... stridently at times. Am I the only one who found this movie decidedly mediocre (at best)? And is it because I'm getting old? Though if finding 80 odor jokes unfunny is a sign of getting old, I'll gladly cop to getting older ... and wiser ... and more sensible. Though I'm not sure how much more sensible since I still want to see TALLADEGA NIGHTS.

I also saw WONDER BOYS which was really, truly funny. In the end I was a bit disappointed with the film but that's mostly because I had very, very high expectations. I felt similarly about last year's LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. Both are stellar, hilarious films but I went into both thinking they would transcend their genre of light dramedy and delve deep into the dynamic of what makes good fiction (WONDER BOYS) and the interpersonal dynamics of a contemporary extended family (SUNSHINE). And while both films touch on their respective subjects, they do so with a delicate, light hand ... never really digging deep enough to uncover the hidden gems, the profound social comments we find in the piercingly honest and introspective films. That being said, these are two exceptional films with amazing casts ... especially SUNSHINE which has more charm than George Clooney's hairpiece. (Okay, okay, that's probably his real hair. Whatever.)

And speaking of good films, two of my favorite film critics have posted their top films of the year. I no longer am as informed on film criticism as I once was (or thought I was) but I still believe one of the top film critics in the world is the Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum. Here's a link to his list along with the list of the Reader's junior critic. I'm also a big fan of Slate's Dana Stevens, who became Slate's film critic this year. Here's a link to her Top 10 list. And for any fellow Rosenbaum fans who might pass by, the Chicago Reader has recently unveiled a film blog run by their film critics. Here's the link to the blog.

I thought this post would be about several things but so far its been about films and movies. I think I'll end this post now and save the other things for subsequent posts. One of these things is an update on my fat loss. I stopped exercising for a couple weeks when I had to focus on papers for school. Nevertheless, I really didn't ballon up at all. This is because I continued to watch what I ate, limiting my caloric (and, therefore indirectly, my fat) intake. I in fact lost weight, but most of that was muscle and I could see my stomach had gotten a slight bit flabbier. Anyway I've returned to working out regularly again and hope to make the most of winter break. However I'd like to note that I think the weeks off show just how important watching what you eat is in terms of losing fat. You can exercise all you want, but if you are not simultaneously limiting your calories and fat, you will have an awfully hard time losing any fat. Anyway, I'll have an entire post on this (hopefully short) in the next few days.

I hope 2007 is treating everyone well.