Archive for May, 2009

ease up

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

 

After I spent quite a bit of time ripping the new terminator last week a very close friend asked me if I was “angry” and if everything “was okay.”  One comment after the review on here was that I “love to hate things.” 

Well, I love to love things too, and for an anti-terminator to balance this hate I only had to wait one week.  On Saturday night I saw Up in 3D at the Landmark.  The interesting thing about the landmark is that it is one of those few theaters that lets you pick your seat in advance.   This does two things: #1 it lets you know you’re getting a great seat if you just plan ahead.  #2 you can show up when the movie starts and not have to watch 30 minutes of trivia about bit parts in movies you forgot existed (“pop quiz, what color was the ink in Jim Carrey’s notebook in ’23?’”) or lame coke commercials (if those commercials are the state of our current young crop of directors, wow, are we in for a few decades of bad movies!).

Anyway, there is something great about waltzing into the theater a minute before the lights go dark and sitting down right in the middle.  Perhaps that great starting point peppered my opinion of the film I was about to see.  Perhaps not since I’ve only read one negative review so far (and the sticking point for this review was “hey, who was taking the photographs in the photo album?”).

Up was thoroughly enjoyable.  I enjoyed Ratatoille, I remember being blown away by the rendering of the water in the “rain and run” sequence at the beginning.  Wall-E had a coolness factor to it because it was in space, but somehow it seemed like a step backwards because, hey, we don’t know what future space robots/spaceships are supposed to look like.  We know what merit badges and waterfalls look like though, and in Up they’re rendered beautifully.  Throughout the film I found myself enamored with the small details existing just on the fringe of the film; the laces on Carl’s shoes, the transparency of Steve’s wings, the cheaply sewn lines on Russel’s merit badges, etc.   All these things were done with exacting (one might say “lovingly crafted”) detail.

The story  is also one so atypical that you can’t help get swept away.  Of course it is predictable and of course willful suspension of disbelief is required.  But, unlike in Terminator, the characters are developed with such care that when a boy is using a leaf blower and a few balloons to fly from zero to 30,000 feet we’re simply mesmerized by how the physics of this feat somehow… work and look believable on the screen.

The only thing in the entire film that doesn’t look “natural” is the appearance of the wealthy businessman, taking on a very alien appearance.  However, this works to the film’s benefit as this man’s presence is really the only villain we’re presented with in the first half hour (and we aren’t presented with the “real” one for at least another half hour).  Unlike most children’s movies the villain isn’t revealed until nearly the end of the film.  And when I say “revealed” I don’t mean we hear about him and finally see him at the end – I mean the children in the audience may not even know a villain is coming until, well, he’s there.  I’m sure most of the adults in the audience could put together instantly who might have had the ability to create “talking” dogs, but I doubt the kiddies put two and two together that quickly.

I also applaud Pixar for (again) creating a film with elements of real life relationships.  In real life there are sad little boys waiting for a deadbeat dad (or mom) to show up to their cub scouts merit badge ceremony. And there are adventurous old men who grew up dreaming of exploring far off places of the world that still had some mystery left (before Bear Grills taught us all how to skin a lizard with a blade of grass) and now are doomed to recline further and further back watching a tube that has multiplied greatly in quantity but decreased further in content.

One gripe I saw in the comments to some of the reviews of Up was how much “explaining” parents would have to do afterwards.  After all, this film (in some instances more subtly than others) deals with death, miscarriage (or was she/he sterile?), imminent domain, absentee parents, broken homes and more.  My argument for this is the same I would give to anyone “scared” (google “gathering storm NOM” if you aren’t in California) their child will learn about gay people (existing)…  If it is part of life you should be teaching your child about it.  Humans are born 9 months premature… not 9 years. 

Unfortunately, I must agree with Roger Ebert and say that the 3D “adds nothing.”  As I’ve seen before, the 3D is used to much greater effect in the previews than in the actual film.   I flipped my glasses on and off and noticed that the glasses were tinted as well and made the film appear less bright than it should.  I also noticed that the format was not in the standard wide film format, but a shortened version.  Was this on the 3D version only, or are all Pixar films in this more boxy format?

I’d also like to mention that the opening short film “Partly Cloudy”, although being somewhat confusing because we just watched a preview for another film called “Partly Cloudy (with a chance of meatballs)”, was much better than the shorts in front of Ratatouille and Wall-E.  Did the grey cloud remind anyone else of the Rock Biter?

 

**note: the image at the top doesn’t appear in Up… even though this scene (the actual image is obviously not a final rendering) was used repeatedly in marketing materials leading up to the release.  In fact, this is a re-imagining of one of the pivotal last scenes, in which Carl is in the blimp, Russel is hanging from the garden hose and nobody at all is in the house.  Should I tell these people?

WTF, southwest?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

My friend in Berlin gave me the not-so-good word today that he’ll have another visitor during the time we’d tentatively planned to have me visit in August.  As I’m in school right now, my schedule isn’t very flexible, so for now, going to visit him is totally off the plate, at least until next August. 

So, I figured I’d turn this great tragedy of our time into a chance to visit Byron and check out his new place in Seattle (and I’ve never been to Seattle).

I went to Southwest’s website after checking travelocity.  The cheapest travelocity flight was $138.  I went on Southwest and found a flight there and a flight back each for $69.  I thought “great, nice, low fares, they’re right!” (even though it was technically the same price)

WRONG…

Check out this screenshot of my ticket price before and after (note the hilarious “no hidden fees” banner ad on this page…

 

I had to be rushed to hospital because the irony killed me when I saw the next page.

 

 

Uh… $166??!!  No hidden fees?   Truth in Marketing FAIL…

I’ll stick with Travelocities total of $138 AFTER taxes and BS “fees” thank you.

I looked up Southwest’s page for their “no hidden fees” campaign and check this out:  All the “fees” they’re talking about are totally optional and (ironically) ones I’ve never ever experienced…ever.  I’ve never had to pay extra to sit by the window (I always try to sit there).  I’m smart enough to check out the baggage policy before I fly – although I try to fly light so it isn’t a problem anyway.  Snack fee?  The only airline that did that was Skybus, but that was because we could get a Columbus to Burbank flight for $50!  (and they’ve been out of business for a year now anyway)

by the way, what is PFO?  Giving a fee an acronym certainly seems like a good way to “hide” what it is…doesn’t it?

I used to like Southwest (their flights in the west actually were cheaper before)….but first the peanuts…and now this…

killing california

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

California can’t make up its mind.  They scare away conservatives (i.e. big business) by ratcheting up taxes and regulations, and then scare away gays by telling them (unlike in other states) that they aren’t welcome here.  Pretty soon there won’t be anybody left… there already aren’t enough left to keep our state from going into the red (fiscally, not politically – although that may happen if enough things like this keep happening).

The ruling today was an obvious short term politically motivated “verdict.”  By (default) declaring gay marriage illegal – but the previous marriages legal the court makes it abundantly clear that they’re caving to their republican/conservative/religious masters, while leaving the matter open for later for courageous courts to fix.  If there was something deeply wrong with gay marriage the court wouldn’t have upheld the existing marriages that took place up until November 8th of last year. 

If gay marriage was wrong, and damaged society (as the Mormons allege) we’d annul the marriages that happened between May and November to prevent this damage from occurring. 

This is also a travesty because now there will be an anti-prop 8 for us to vote on “as early as next year” wasting a ton of taxpayer money…and then another prop 8 from the Mormons to counter that two years later…  So the court basically said “uh.. the people that pad our wallets (the court is 86% republican/conservative) need us to do this…but…tell ya what… since we’re making voting decisions the rule of law – you can VOTE gay marriage back into law if you want….”   Of course this sets up a ludicrous system where our state could possibly have gay marriage voted in for two years…then out for two years…then in for two years…etc.  Or at least until the US Supreme Court establishes that gay marriage is legal (which it will). 

And if you think I’m being a “silly liberal” (I’m not liberal by the way), consider that the court decided along “party lines” 6-1 on the constitutionality of the amendment – but was UNANYMOUS in upholding the legality of existing marriages.  Read between the lines here… it isn’t hard…  Ruling that the marriages should be annulled would have made a moral judgement on homosexuality.  Ruling along party lines on the constitutionality of the amendment essentially lets the Supreme Court highlight a technicality and wash its hands of the whole thing and throw it back to the voters (again…).  Turning it from a judgement on gay marriage to a judgement on the ability of the populous to make constitutional amendments affecting certain classes of people.

And, to use the conservatives argument – this leaves the ballot box open to make amendments like “murder is legal” or “Women can’t live in California” or any number of ridiculous things that “52%” of Californians might vote as an amendment.  All it takes apparently would be a TV commercial convincing all the gullible California voters that (gasp!) their child might be taught by a Woman (and some dark clouds) and then a pastor saying that “I might have to let a woman into my church and sit the pews!” and BAM - Women aren’t allowed in California.

“oh no, that wouldn’t happen because Women are recognized by the state as a protected class of people”

So are gays….  “The California Supreme Court is the only state high court in the nation to have elevated sexual orientation to the status of race and gender. . .”  Starting to see why this is a scary verdict?  Convince more men to go out and vote on a proposition than women and you can ban women from California.  … or do anything you want. 

 

by the way, saying an amendment is different than a revision.. totally weak.

Amendment: A correction or alteration

Revise: To reconsider and change or modify

So if I amend the California Constitution to declare me the ruler of the Universe that is okay, after all, I didn’t revise the constitution, I just altered it… not modified it… because you know, modify and alter are totally not synonyms….   I wonder if they’re planning to change the California textbooks to reflect this change to the English language.

just kill him already!

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

On Saturday I dragged Sam to watch Terminator Salvation.  I always feel bad when I campaign (although weakly) to see a film and then it turns out badly.  But wait, I just gave you a spoiler (it sucks!).  There are more spoilers below.

 

below here

 

 

 

yes..down here…

 

 

okay, now that you’ve been sufficiently warned, I’ll commence with the McGeneric movie bashing.  I have no doubt that McG tried his hardest to return the Terminator franchise to glory. However, the problem is that McG has no idea what he is doing.  His last action film involved Cameron Diaz throwing fake punches and flirting with Bernie Mac.

Then again, Jim Cameron’s last film before Terminator was “Piranha!” and he seemed to be able to figure it out.

The biggest problem with Terminator 4 is that the terminators don’t…well… terminate.  At several points in the film we’re told Kyle Reese is the number one highest guy on the Skynet kill list.  Then when they catch him they do what… not kill him, but use him to lure in his son … so they can kill his son…  Umm… did I miss something here?  If you killed Kyle Reese the first time you ID’d him, wouldn’t that kill John Connor?

Some people described the new Star Trek as a film that is hard to watch if you care for accuracy.  These people would run out of Terminator Salvation with their eyes and ears bleeding.  Lets have a go, shall we?

Why does Arnold’s CG face make a cameo as the “new” terminator model just minutes after skynet explains to Marcus that they’ve “been trying and trying and failed at all previous (time travel) experiments.”  If you know the T-800 is going to fail, why are you still building it??

Why would skynet headquarters, a place to #1 house the central computer “brain” for skynet and also manufacture terminators have a human computer interface.  Also, why would the assembly area have pipes with shut-off valve wheels made for human hands to turn.  There is a particular shot where we watched an elevator go up and down and you can see at least three of these valve wheels in the shot… I was ready to jump up and down!  The answer is probably that the director knew only a few people (like me) would notice, and whatever power plant they filmed the scenes in would never let them actually take apart the pipes.  To CG the valve handles/wheels would have been another expense…

Anyway, the elevator scene was another example of how McG chose to include numerous allusions to other terminator films and in fact all Jim Cameron films.  There is a particularly obvious wink to any fan of Aliens near the end (except the recipient of the spike through the chest in this movie doesn’t get ripped apart afterwards).

After the movie even more inconsistencies with the story would hit me in waves.  Anyone around me must have had an enormous amount of patience.

For example:  Why would skynet kill Kyle Reese?  (try to follow me here, obviously McG couldn’t)  If you kill Kyle Reese he never goes back in time to impregnate Sarah Connor.  That is good for skynet, right?  WRONG… If the first terminator never has to come back through time, the microchip in its crushed arm would never be discovered – and skynet would never even be created.  John Connor and Kyle Reese in fact HAVE to exist (in the past) for skynet to exist in the present.  Now perhaps maybe this is why skynet lures John Connor into it’s headquarters by using Kyle (and this is why they don’t kill Kyle immediately).  

Okay, so kill John as soon as he walks in the building, you know where he is, you showed Marcus…  (which reminds me, why does skynet have a big TV to talk to Marcus with?)

Also, it would be incredibly easy to kill John, after all, we’ve been told throughout the entire first 75% of the movie that Skynet’s headquarters and in fact the whole city of San Francisco is impenetrable.  So, why is it that John is able to just waltz in…and then keep waltzing around?  Why is it that there is only one terminator there to stop him (yes, ONE)?  (p.s. we know there are several terminators at headquarters because we watched them herd the humans in in an earlier scene, remember?)

Once again we’ve found another movie that is inconsistent in it’s own rules.  Terminators are supposed to stop at nothing to kill their target.  Repeatedly the ONE terminator around trying to kill John in THEIR HEADQUARTERS is more content with just picking up John and throwing him than crushing his neck.  We see inconsistencies with the rules much much earlier though.  How about how any sound in the open desert brings around terminators, so much so that “central command” for the resistance hides their noise by operating out of a submarine?  This rule is established several times.  Right up until we see John napalm his own backyard at the other (???) resistance headquarters.   Nobody seems the least bit worried about all that noise.  There is more and more and more, but I’ll move onto another complaint.

Marcus, you wake up more than a decade after your own execution and never think to question why you don’t need to sleep, pee, eat or do anything a human would do.  And then when you’re blown open to see your computer innards you’re shocked beyond belief… how stupid are you?  Also, my goodness, how did you survive that atomic bomb blast in the opening scene?  You just walked right out of the fire (later that night) with some mud.  You and Indiana Jones should swap atom bombing stories, he needed a fridge to survive one, you just needed mud apparently

Add to this the horrible cheesiness of the story, the expensive but cheap looking CG work on the “large sets” and you’ve got yourself a disaster.  The first half hour was okay.  The opening scene complete with “one long shot” of the helicopter crashing was impressive, although I was hoping this wasn’t what McG had referred to on his blog as “something new and amazing I hope we can pull off.”  It was.

Obviously I could write more words about the problems with this film than the number of words in the script.

To erase the travesty from our memories, Sam took me to a “secret” beach in Malibu.  It isn’t secret, but it is a public access hallway hidden in all the beachfront homes on the west side of the PCH.  After we walked through and got situated we slowly realized that paparazzi were coagulating in front of us in order to shoot someone in a home behind us.  Every now and then some guy would come out and say “she isn’t coming out, just go away” – but they wouldn’t, and so we did.  Before we left though I saw something more engrossing than a pampered celebrity – a dolphin!  In fact, we saw a whole family of them heading north along the shore.  Although they were more clearly visible to the naked eye I tried to get a shot with Sam’s (brand new) point and shoot camera (I had left mine at home).  The result is below:

Mega Force!

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

When I was a kid, I caught this movie on tv.  Since the beginning of time whenever a group of friends and I were planning to rent a movie I tell them “why don’t we rent MegaForce?!”  The idea is summarily dismissed either before or after everyone asks me what the hell Mega Force is. 

Well, thanks to youtube, I can now show you what y’all were missing out on…

Just like other “fringe” pop culture things I’ve mentioned on this blog, the South Park boys were also apparently enthusiastic about how bad/funny this movie was.

from the mountain top

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

 

I was digging through my phone for something else today and found this photo that I snapped before my phone went dead – and for some reason didn’t see when I was copying the photos over for my original blog post about the adventure.   That little patch of rocky white on the other side of the road a little bit left of center in the upper half is Stoney Point.  Just for comparison’s sake here is a photo of Stoney Point from south (looking north) down the road (Topanga Canyon).

sandwich man patrons get sandwiched

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Well not exactly, the place closes at 3pm I think and this happened after that, so luckily nobody was there.  However, Sandwich Man, which I eat at 3 days a week (including the day this happened) had a car come sailing through the front window like a reenactment of SpiderMan 2.

Video of the wreckage here.

Art Walk May 2009

Friday, May 15th, 2009

After work Thursday I boarded the familiar red line to Pershing Square to meet Sam and check out the art walk for the first time in five months.  Some things changed, some things stayed the same.

We checked out the Hive first as that place usually has the best work.  Here are some of the standouts:

Tom Beirce by Lance Richlin.

Damnation by Janae Corrado.

Unknown artist at the Hive.

Next we walked over to Infusion Gallery. They had some okay stuff, but nothing outstanding. They had one outstanding piece of crap though:

This is “eye” by Gabriel Fiscale.

There were a lot more musicians and street bands this time. Here are some people dancing outside of marisco’s:

and another street corner band:

Next we went into the infamous Phyllis Stein gallery. Once again it was filled with mostly crap (like Molly Schiot pieces) including this leftover piece of trash from S. Lee Robinson’s studio:

Next up was the gallery across the street, which was full of small mediocre pieces. The centerpiece was a “poetry slam/reading” going on in the front. The mic was turned down kind of low (thank goodness).

Yes, teenage white girl from LA with a red braid in your hair, rap to us about your terrible life on the streets growing up in Sherman Oaks….

Across the street and upstairs (those of you familiar with the Art Walk know what I mean) we found Michael Pukac doing some in-gallery paintings and selling them for $80. Here is one of his finished pieces (going for considerably more):

We walked down 4th street to Lost Souls Cafe.  This is the cafe that is hidden down that little alleyway next to Rocket Pizza.  In the alley this time was a 3-piece band that was not quite steampunk.  There was a steampunk/cosplay girl blowing bubbles puttering around them.

We went back down main, going down 5th (?) first to find a nude woman getting painted and pushed against a wall. Now before anyone gets all agasp about how stunning/pornographic/etc. this is, let’s not forget Yves Klein who famously did this sort of thing sixty years ago…

Back up on Main street proper we walked past the usual places and came to the Regent. In art walks last year we watched this space go from a loose conglomeration of art on the walls and performers on stage – to “professional” crafts booths along the walls, a good band on stage and a bar at the back. When we went in this time we discovered that it would now cost $5 to get into the bar. We turned around and headed outside. The parking lot adjacent to the building had been cleared of cars and many “street artists” were displaying their goods:

I think these guys used to play music across the street in front of “Phartika” or whatever that gallery is called.

An interesting painting in progress

I hope the price was $5 and not $50…

I love the look of one part embarassment, one part anger and one part boredom; and how the artist tries to morph it into three parts happy.

see I told you … not political

Friday, May 15th, 2009

God WAS british all along

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

The lord, creator of all things big and small, has revealed himself.  His name?  John Sutherland.

Your move, Creationist Museum……  and anyone who believes in God because life can’t “spontaneously occur.”  Technically shouldn’t they now worship John, since their belief is that only god can spontaneously make life (here defined as RNA)?  Only god can create life.  John creates life.  John = God.

Of course all of this hasn’t been absolutely verifed yet, but then again neither was God and billions don’t seem to need any more proof to believe in that.