Where Y'all From?
Take this test to determine where you are from based on your colloquialisms and pronunciations. I came up as follows:
    52% (Dixie). Barely into the Dixie category.
Although this seems pretty strange to me since I spent the first 25 years above (and in most cases way above) the Mason-Dixon line, I guess that being in DC for the past 7 years has started to influence me. Damn it.


Ash Wednesday Notes
Ken Watanabe, the Oscar-nominated actor from The Last Samurai, has been cast as R'as al Ghul, Batman's nemesis in the next Batman movie (2005), opposite Christian Bale.

A review of The Passion of the Christ by Walter Chaw. Good stuff.

A review by Ebert of the same film. Quote: "This is the most violent film I have ever seen." That's saying a lot from a film critic. He also makes an interesting observation in closing:
    The MPAA's R rating is definitive proof that the organization either will never give the NC-17 rating for violence alone, or was intimidated by the subject matter. If it had been anyone other than Jesus up on that cross, I have a feeling that NC-17 would have been automatic.
Is that to say that violence against a man-god is acceptable, or that mythological flaying is good?

Finally, my father messaged me this morning to say, "Happy Ash Wednesday!" It sounded utterly strange to me, and I grew up getting dirt put on my forehead.


Dancing with genres
Jaquandor, or whatever alias he chooses in the next lifetime, has taken up championing Dances With Wolves as a great film. He makes a lot of salient points, and I agree that it is a great film, but in no way is it a masterpiece like Goodfellas. Unfortunately for Jaquandor, he knows that he's unable to be objective about it:
    When you get a discussion of the Oscars going with people who see a lot of movies, one of the most common examples of a year in which the wrong film was purportedly given Best Picture is 1991. That was the year that first-time director Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves took the big prize over Martin Scorcese's GoodFellas, in an eerie repeat of ten years earlier when first-time director Robert Redford's Ordinary People beat out Martin Scorcese's Raging Bull. (Now there is an example of the Academy getting it staggeringly wrong. Does anybody watch, or read, Ordinary People any more?) I can sort-of see the complaint: I remember GoodFellas being a very good film. Although I haven't seen it in at least ten years, I remember it being pretty absorbing, and I'm one who has very little interest in stories about the Mafia or organized crime. I have yet to see any of the Godfather movies all the way through, for example.
I'd pick on that more, but not having seen any of the Godfather films (or Lawrence of Arabia, for that matter, is embarrassing enough). Still, I'm sympathetic to his genre bias; I cannot stand musicals -- never could. At best, I will tolerate musical number in certain films (e.g., Willy Wonka), but only just. I just can't help but roll my eyes when a character in a film suddenly breaks out into song.

I guess the best way for me to describe my trouble with the genre is that people bursting into song and dance completely shatters my suspension of disbelief. While I'm able to get absorbed into most movies just fine, the effect of dancers and unexplainable props and such appearing out of nowhere is just so jarring. The only place that incongruous elements thrown into an otherwise realistic situation is acceptable is on the Simpsons or, say Airplane!, where you are meant to laugh at it. At least acceptable to me. So, in that light, my sympathy towards recent musicals Moulin Rouge or Chicago is akin to Jaquandor's ignorance of Godfather I & II. However, for those of you keeping score, I've seen every film in AFI's top 10, which Jaquandor is lacking in at least two. That means total victory against any possible defense scenario.
Jews Threaten to Crucify Gibson
You'd have to be under a rock or have the last name of Sedinger to not know that Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is a controversial film. And Rabbi Licher (Hymen Licher, that is, naturally) thinks Mel should be put on the cross, too:
    When asked about the obvious implications of this vigilante request, Licher told us, "First, you will accuse the jews of killing Christ, we did not. Then when Gibson is nailed to the cross, jews will be accused of killing him too. But jews aren't to blame for either of these deaths. It is Mel Gibson's own actions that will cause his eventual crucifixion, just as it was Jesus' own actions that brought about his death."
Licher didn't claim to see the film, which is the only thing that rings true in this spoof criticism. I'm planning on seeing the film becaues religion is the opiate of the people (thanks, Marx), and this stuff is wicked cool.
Special special edition
As I posted a while back, the original (well, Special Edition thereof) Star Wars trilogy will be heading to DVD this September. And it will be worth the wait, because Lucas has even more changes:
    Much work has been done to fix some mistakes about Han Solo. "For some reason, Han was portrayed as a rogue in the original versions. That was never intended," Lucas explained. "We’ve been doing some work to show him as the true hero that he is. For instance, we’ve put in a scene where he saves some cute puppies and kittens from a runaway landspeeder."
Well, I'm glad that's been cleared up. It always did bother me that Solo was just too darn rebellious.


I was saying "Boo-urns".

UPDATE: There is a quickly growing petition (started by fans to get Season 6 back on track. To sign it, go here. Now.


Sure, James, I'll answer
Yet again flaunting his ignorance of popular culture, Jaquandor posts a questionaire that he took. However, since he doesn't have cable, I guess he shouldn't know that it is the famous Benard Pivot questionaire that James Lipton asks all of his guests at the end of Inside the Actors Studio on Bravo.

In any event, since I have no plans to become an actor, I won't waste my time waiting to get called onto the show for an interview. Here's how I would respond today:

What is your favorite word? Allegedly. It's fun to use, and if you've been around me in conversation, you know I like to throw it out there every now and then for humor.

What is your least favorite word? Slut. This is a word that captures the essence of double-standards as well as hypocricy, not to mention being used a lot by holier-than-thou religious types.

What turns you on (inspires you)? Music and writing. They are usually intertwined for me -- I'll listen to a song or phrase and think how I could use that in a story, and then I'll write and totally get off on it.

What turns you off? People who are not self-aware. Know thyself.

What sound do you love? A breathless sigh.

What sound do you hate? Alarm clocks on TV. My reaction is "shut it off! shut it off!!!"

What is your favorite curse word? Fuck. Especially when I use it like thus: "Fuck you and your family".

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? I'm not sure I'd attempt to be a writer just on its own. Granted, I spend a lot of time writing and have since I was 10 or so, but I don't like the idea of pigeon-holing myself in one field. For instance, in my IT position, I do a great many things while keeping my hand in technology and I'm not a starving writer. I guess I'd ideally like to do my current job part-time and have more time for writing, as logistics is just too mentally taxing after 8 hours.

What profession would you not like to participate in? Waiter. I would last about an hour before I did a shoot-myself-in-the-foot with a customer.

Presupposing that Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? I forgive you.


Deja Vu all over again
Being the procrastination expert that I am, my first viewing of Lost In Translation was in the comfort of my home as opposed to the theater. I purchased the DVD prior to having seen the film based on word-of-mouth, interest in the plot, and Bill Murray. Of course, once I had pre-ordered the DVD, seeing the film in the theater became an unnecessary $9 added expense coupled with the idea that it wasn't one of those films (e.g., Last Samurai or LOTR) that you needed a Super Dolby experience to enjoy. Rambling justification over, the bottom line is I was impressed and very satisfied with the film.

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, it's about a twenty-something married woman (Scarlett Johansson, radiant) who has a ephemeral, flirtatious and emotionally bonding relationship with a fifty-something married man (Bill Murray, heartfelt, witty, and touching performance, well worthy of his Golden Globe win) as they are both trapped in Japan and feeling the neglect of their significant others. And that's about the extent of the plot, or as my friend summarized, "There isn't much of one."

I've mentioned Before Sunrise previously in a list of unseen movie gems, but I think it's pretty clear that Sofia Coppola has long since checked it off her list. Before Sunrise is another film about two strangers meeting in a foreign land who spend a brief but inevitably terminable time together. Exchange Vienna for Japan, a train for a hotel, beautiful architecture for concrete jungles and technology (for the most part), and throw in previous commitments and age differentials and you've got Lost in Translation. Not just the situation and charcters, Coppola's film has a pacing and restraint that feels like Richard Linklater's great work.

A difference would be the dialogue. Linklater's characters (a brash and verbose Ethan Hawke and the exquisite Julie Delpy) wax on about a great many different things, and their dialogue drives the story and spells out clearly how they get along and get to know each other. Constrasting, Coppola's script is sparse with speeches -- the scenes are brief and characters tacit, but it works just the same. Sofia (as we are on a first name basis now) accomplishes the same bonding with long shots, meaningful looks and poignant silences. Wisely, she wrote a film about people who act married; they aren't single and yappy and hyper -- they are a little lonely and melancholy and looking for connection. While it works well on screen, I think it serves better for her to get a Best Director (to pull all that emotional and feeling out of little dialogue) than for Best Screenplay Oscar. Of course, being a little independent film, and up against some giant flicks, the Academy will likely award her the Best Screenplay as consolation prize. Silly Academy. You watch.

Anyway, if you like Before Sunrise, you'll like Lost In Translation.

PS. I'm eagerly awaiting Linklater's sequel (with both Hawke and Delpy in their roles 9 years later) in Before Sunset, coming in June.

PPS. For some reason, both of these films are ones I really enjoy watching alone. Romantic, slow, and thoughtful films should either be watched alone or with someone you are holding and can just enjoy the moment. Enough said.
Postgame Celebration Gone Awry
After watching countless fan and player celebratory maulings following a victory, I suppose it was inevitable that something like this would happen:
    Joe Kay, a senior and starting forward, capped Tucson's 62-54 victory over Tucson Salpointe Catholic with an exclamation slam. A group of fans overtook him after flooding the court, coaches who reviewed film of the game told the Republic. Kay suffered a fractured jaw and a torn carotid artery -- the carotid supplies blood to the brain -- and subsequently suffered a stroke, according to the newspaper's report.
This turns my stomach. Every time I see a player sprawled out on the court and his teammates or fans piling on him, I think, "Man, doesn't that hurt? Isn't that dangerous? Is someone on the bottom yelling, 'Get off! Get off!'?" In the frenzy of sports triumphs, people often doesn't realize what they are doing, using adrenaline-fueled strength to embrace victory. I hope this guy makes a fully recovery.


Mental drain on creativity
My evil alter-ego is upbeat about his grocery-store job. That's right: he's giddy with glee about being a supermarket clerk. Okay, I'm exaggerating (at least I hope I am), but he is optimistic. Why? Because having those kinds of jobs are great for being a writer. No, not in the sense you get great stories from people in supermarkets or you can always hide out in the ice-cream locker with your notepad, but the job in itself is mentally easy.

Through a short series of actual 9-to-5 desk jobs, Jaquandor has discovered (shit, I could have told him this 8 years ago) two things that greatly inhibit writing output. The first is that sitting in front of a computer all day isn't a great motivator for a writer. Probably because the last thing one wants to do when you get home is sit (again) in front of the computer. Although not as comically fine as the gynecologist from "Friends" who knows the last thing he wants to see at the end of the day is another vagina, it's analogically appropriate.

The second is having a job in which you expel a great amount of mental energy. First of all, when you are concentrating you can't daydream, and therefore you can't think about your characters, plot, etc. Also, by the time you get home after a long (or even regular) day of work, you are just tired of thinking, and vegging out in front of the TV sounds amazingly satisfying. Even watching a movie feels like too much effort -- who can concentrate for 2 hours? Usually on Mondays or Tuesdays I get sucked into TNT's dark web of Law & Order. And no writing gets done.

This is all because I have a job that requires me to be at a computer most of the time and requires me to think quite a lot. Frankly, I find the experience rewarding and the day flies by, but I haven't written very much over the past year and it's because I have a job which likely falls into the 95 top percentile of occupations that aren't good for writers.

But that's no excuse. I've nearly completed a new color sketch for my wall, and I've made some good advances with 'the book'. It's just harder now (I can't imagine how much harder it would be with a wife and kid, but who even has time for that?), but not even attempting anything feels like a waste, and I ain't finished yet.
Left brain, right foot
For those of you who want a short break from this day's deluge of crap:
    Left brain, right brain. While sitting at your desk, lift your right
    foot off the floor and make clockwise circles. Now, while doing this,
    draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand. Your foot will
    change direction and there's nothing you can do about it.
Magic 8-Ball
For your amusement, go get all your answers here. I'm just not in the mood. Or rather, I'm in the kind of mood that you scare people in because you glare with the burning intensity of 1000 suns. Just saying.


Star Wars Trilogy... to DVD this year
TheForce.net has posted a 'reliable source' rumor that next week an announcement will be made regarding making the 'Special Edition' of the Star Wars original trilogy on DVD. Apparently, it could be done as soon as September 21. Can you say 'pre-order'? I can. It's easy.

Of course, Lucas has already stated time and again that the original versions of the films won't be on DVD (unless of course, you shop in Malaysia, and who would ever do that?), so I will be keeping my tapes in my library.

Anyone for... ice hockey?
The reviews have been pretty good of the new film about the 1980 US Olympic hockey team, Miracle, opening this weekend. I was going to see it anyway, because it is one of my favorite sports history stories. It will be probably be overly dramatic, as it is a dramatization (duh) by Disney, but I hope it is at least as good as HBO's excellent documentary about the team.
It's been kind of a unsaid thing around Hollywood for a while, but really it's getting to be a pattern. There have been a helluva lot of actors who go ugly to get Oscar lately. Some of the actors are generally considered to be good anyway, but the theory is that if you forget to look at them as eye candy for a moment, then maybe you can see that they really are good actors or at least can try really really hard.

I say, pfft. And that is a dismissive 'pfft'. What these excellent-looking actors are saying is that they gave it that something a little extra by self-mutilating for a role. That they took a courageous leap and adopted a sedentary lifestyle and at cheeseburgers and whiskey (and loved it) to become a gluttonous heap that would make critics go "Hmm, he really does embody the spirit of a starkly overweight hairdresser!". How brave it was for them to forgo their $200 haircut and chop it themselves, or go forbid get it done at Hair Cuttery! What acting chops!

I wonder what kind of message does this send to the plain-looking actor? That it takes gore makeup, a skillful performance and courage for pretty actors to pretend to be like them in the morning? Should plain actors be lauded by the Academy for donning a Brad Pitt mask and playing a romantic lead? And what of the okay-looking actors who could go either way? Are they doomed to be ignored and passed over for those who can so egregiously transform their looks? [I suspect society and the Academy might only embrace the females who go both ways.]

I'll go get that first cup of coffee now.


No need to hype
Some of you will be tied down watching crappy network TV this evening. Frankly, I don't even know anymore what is on Thursday nights (Friends and ER?), but it doesn't matter, because I'm going out to watch Duke v. North Carolina tonight. Oh yes.

UPDATE: It was a barn burner. They confirmed again that this is the best rivalry in college hoops. The rematch will be Saturday, March 6, 9 pm, as they say, in priiiiiiiiiiime tiiiiiiiiiiime.


Two Cents and One Boob
I must have blinked, or been in the bathroom, or been distracted by something actually interesting at the time, but I didn't catch the over-ballywhooed Janet Jackson exposure during the Superbowl halftime show last night. I'm not sure anyone in the bar saw it either, because I probably would have heard about it then instead of last night.

From what I can gather, and it's pretty easy to gather as the news media has gone berzerk over the 'incident', her right breast was exposed for about 2 seconds on international televison during a non-closeup. Heavens! Tom Shales of the Washington Post apparently suffered a heart attack at the 'sleaze-fest', for apparently Mr. Shales has never even seen a nipple on TV. Oh the humanity!

Not to be outdone by an areola, Shaquille O'Neal was suspended for cursing out officials in a post-game interview. As the interviewer gently reminded Shaq that this was live television, the big man quipped, "I don't give a shit." Who's going to argue with him, really? Rather inappropriate behavior, in keeping with a small fine or something (take it out of his pocket change), but suspension? Give me a break.

Frankly, Janet Jackson has never done it for me, and never will. I'm sure some people find her attractive and perhaps somewhat talented (again, I wouldn't know), and if she thinks that showing off one of her 40-year-old tits will get her career jump-started again, then boo-yah for her. It's just a breast, it was just two seconds, and I've heard there's worse on NYPD Blue every week (not that I watch it -- thank goodness for the 'mature audience' warnings that allow me to keep my innocent eyes closed!!).

Moral of this story: I could not care less. And that's why I just ranted for 10 minutes just now, because I'm all out of caring. Damn, I hate it when I contradict myself.

UPDATE: Via Nimrod, the leader of the free world agrees with me. Who cares?

UPDATE2: MTV kowtows and expresses remorse, confirming a slow news day. Frantic downloading of single-breast JPEGs likely to blame in poor turnout for democratic primaries.