God help thee, poor monkey. - Macbeth

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Oh dear, guys, it's been far too long since I posted. I kind of doubt that anyone's reading anymore. Haha. Sorry, I've been really busy. Anyway, I got tagged for a meme by my dad, and, although I can't think of anyone else to tag. But I thought I'd fill it out anyway.

* The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.

* Each player answers the questions about himself or herself.

* At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. Ten years ago I was:
Living in the same house. I was 9 years old and was just finishing up 3rd grade in my favorite teacher's class. My little sister was 2, and my family was planning to go to Salt Lake City to visit my uncle that summer.

2. Five Things on Today's To Do List:

1. Go to sleep

2. Do my laundry

3. Call my friend to alleviate his boredom on his 1o hour bus ride for his school trip.

4. Go to the bank to cash/deposit my paycheck

5. Go to work

3. Things I'd do if I were a billionaire:

- Pay off all my student loans

- Pay to fix up my parents' house

- Buy some of the stuff that I've been wanting (i.e. those $150 leather boots from Urban Outfitters, an iphone, etc.)

- Buy all my favorite DVDs

- Donate to several charities

- Treat my friends and family to a ton of stuff

- Travel my heart out

- Go visit all my friends in other states/countries that I've been dying to see.

- Probably a ton of other stuff that I can't think of right now.

4. Three Bad Habits:

- I bite my nails.

- I stay up WAY too late.

- I can't motivate myself to do stuff that doesn't grab my attention.

5. Five Places I've lived:

- Willy Street area. The house I was born into and where I lived until I was 3. I don't have too many memories from there.

- Emerson neighborhood. My family moved there when I was 3 and have been living there since.

- My best friend's house. Okay, not really, but I haven't really lived in 5 places, and I spent about half my time there during junior and senior year.

- The theater of my high school. Once again, not really lived, but I certainly spent a lot of time there during my high school years.

- My college dorm room in Pennsylvania. I just moved out about a month ago, actually, but I had some fun times there.

6. Five Jobs I've had in life:

- Student

- Volunteer at a summer camp and school classroom

- Clerk at a fabric store

- Camp Counselor

- Backwaiter at a Brazilian Steakhouse (current job, and a very good one at that)

Okay, and done! Hope those still reading my blog enjoy this.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Movie Review: In the Valley of Elah

I have been waiting to see "In the Valley of Elah" for over six months. When I first heard of it, I was terribly excited because it had a terrific cast (Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon) and a magnificent director (Paul Haggis, director of "Crash"). Not only that, but Paul had cast Jonathan Tucker in one of the smaller roles, an actor whose work I loved on Paul's short lived show "The Black Donnellys". Unfortunately, I never got the chance to see it when it was in theaters due to lack of time and money. This week, it finally came in at the library, and tonight I was in the mood for a drama.

Despite the fact that the mood was kind of killed by my roommate's music playing in the background (Kanye doesn't really go well with this movie), I was completely and utterly blown away. I had been worried that I had too high of expectations for "In the Valley of Elah" and would be disappointed with what I saw. This could not have been more wrong. It was a beautiful, haunting movie about what serving in Iraq is doing to the young men who join the army. There are some anti-war messages, of course, but the point of the movie isn't to make a statement for or against the army in general. Its point is to show what this specific war is doing to people. I don't really know how to describe it better without giving away the story line, but I will say that it is a beautifully crafted story that allows the viewer to see both the horrible things that our soldiers are doing as well as showing their vulnerability and humanity. Rather than painting a picture in black and white, it shows things for what they really are.

The general plot line is that Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) teams up with local detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) to investigate the disappearance of his son, Michael (Jonathan Tucker), upon the young man's return from Iraq. Although the bare bones of the story center around the crime investigation, it is the details and glimpses of humanity that make this movie the beautiful masterpiece that it is.

I apologize for this rather disjointed review. All I can say is that it is not for the faint of heart. The topics focused on in this movie are brutal and horrible, just like war really is, but there is no "good guy" or "bad guy". There are just humans. If you can stomach the content (it's not terribly visually graphic or anything, but the topics are not pleasant to think about), definitely watch this movie. It is heartbreaking and moving, and all the actors did a wonderful job. And, if you watch, make sure you watch the credits until the end of Annie Lennox's haunting song, "Lost". Not only is the song beautiful and perfect for this movie, but there is also one of the most raw, heartfelt tributes that I have ever seen included in the credits, and the movie is not complete without it, in my opinion.

Sadly, this movie was overlooked this year except for one Oscar nomination for Tommy Lee Jones (which he definitely deserved), but don't allow yourself to pass it by. It is worth the watch.

EDIT: Also, several of the actors playing soldiers were actually in the army, so the feeling in this movie...it's real. And this movie is based on a true story.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Movie Review: Labyrinth

Ever since I was very young, "Labyrinth" has been one of my favorite movies. In fact, I loved it so much, that I was absolutely thrilled when my dad bought me a tape of "Peter and the Wolf" narrated by David Bowie because I loved him so much as Jareth, the king of the goblins.

For those who haven't seen it, "Labyrinth" is a darkly funny fairy tale about a spoiled teenager, Sarah, who spends all her time in a fantasy world rather than interacting with people her own age. One night, while babysitting her crying baby brother, Toby, she wishes for goblins to come and take the inconsolable infant away. At her words, Toby disappears from his room, and his sister comes face to face with the formidable Goblin King, Jareth. She begs him to return her brother, but he refuses, declaring that "What's said is said." Finally, he relents, telling her that her brother is being kept in the castle at the center of a gigantic, complex labyrinth and gives her 13 hours to solve the labyrinth and find the boy before he becomes a goblin himself. Throughout the rest of the movie, he places in front of her a number of challenges that she is forced to overcome, with the help of a cowardly dwarf named Hoggle, an adorable giant furry beast called Ludo, and Sir Didymus, the fearless, hyperactive foxlike creature who rides on a horseshoed English Sheepdog named Ambrosius.

This movie is amazing for so many reasons. For one thing, you've got a fantastic screenplay written by Monty Python's Terry Jones. For another, you've got a potentially scary story turned into a hilariously whimsical and kid-friendly story by the buffoonish antics of the hapless, muppet-like goblins. Not only that, but the creatures are designed by renowned fairy illustrator Brian Froud, and the special effects are provided by none other than George Lucas. Add to that the direction of Jim Henson (and that absolutely gorgeous cinderella-esque dress that Sarah gets to wear toward the end of the film), and you've got a fantastic movie. Sure, it's campy and VERY 80s, but that's part of its charm.

Let's be honest, though. It's David Bowie who makes the movie. From his irresistibly catchy songs to his flawless portrayal of the mysterious Goblin King, the movie wouldn't be half as good without him. There's something incredibly alluring about the character of Jareth, too, something that I've struggled to put my finger on. As a child, I was absolutely in love with him and found the ball scene to be completely enchanting. I still do, despite the slightly disturbing undertones (not least of which the huge age difference between Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, who plays Sarah). The other day, however, I was watching the movie with my friend who had never seen it, and she said decidedly, "It's because he's so tragic." The more I think about it, the more I realize that she's right. There is a melancholy air to the Goblin King that is quite appealing. However, I am surprised at how many people completely miss this aspect of the character while watching the movie. A great many people only take him at surface level and dismiss him as a jealous, vindictive creature who is in love with Sarah and is motivated by his desire to possess her. This is not what I see at all. In fact, I have never seen Jareth in this way, and I strongly believe that he is not meant to be viewed in this manner. I am undecided on whether or not he was actually in love with Sarah, but I have always seen him as a character who was trying to help Sarah grow up and embrace her life. He didn't want to see her turn into a lonely person like him, surrounded by people but never a part of the group, so he devised a plan to help her discover the values of friendship. While he may have appeared angry and threatening, it was merely because she was still so childlike and wrapped up in the fantasy world of the labyrinth. All his challenges helped her find faith in herself and discover the kind of person that she wanted to be.

If you haven't seen "Labyrinth", I strongly suggest checking it out. It is terribly entertaining and appeals to the child within us all. Even if you have seen it, watch it again. I guarantee that there's something that you missed (Pay close attention to the objects shown in Sarah's room at the beginning of the movie. You might spot some things that look familiar).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Bittersweet Week

Usually I don't write such personal posts, but this is a very emotional week for me. This post is not meant to be depressing but rather to honor some very important memories. Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, the first I've celebrated since my grandfather (pictured above with my little sister) died 6 months ago. St. Patty's Day was always one of his favorite holidays. He was very proud of his Irish heritage. Every year, he would hang the Irish flag on the garage door, and some years he would invite my family over for dinner to celebrate. Not only that, but the last time that I spoke to my grandpa on the phone before he died was when I called him from Irishfest in September. He had fallen ill and was in the hospital, so I thought a call from me would cheer him up, especially since my sister and I are the only two grandchildren who have taken any interest in Irish music and the like. That was the last time that I heard my grandpa's voice. He died the next weekend. I've been missing him a fair amount the past few months, as we were quite close (although I didn't realize how close until he was gone), but today I felt it more acutely than I have since his memorial service. St. Patrick's Day just isn't the same without him around.

The good news this week is that tomorrow is my nineteenth birthday, and my mom is coming to visit me. I haven't seen her since January, so I'm very excited to show her around the city and just spend some quality time with her. It's also my golden birthday, which I have been waiting for since I was old enough to know what a golden birthday was (although now that it's here, it seems a bit anticlimactic).

Unfortunately, tomorrow is also the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. I am very strongly antiwar, and I always have been, and my fourteenth birthday was very nearly ruined when Bush announced on March 17th that he was giving Hussein two days to leave Iraq. I had predicted that our illustrious president would put off attacking Iraq until my birthday, but everyone told me I was being paranoid. I just had this feeling, though. I knew it was going to happen. When we went out for my birthday dinner that night, the restaurant we were at had the TV on right above our table. Bush was on the news outlining his plan of attack, and they refused to turn it off until my mom yelled at them for ruining our celebrations (this is a bar and grill that specializes in birthdays, so I'm not really sure why anyone there would have wanted to be watching such sad news on what is supposed to be such a happy day). I was very emotional that week and prone to tears, a state that was exploited by some of my more pro-war classmates. It wasn't so much that I was upset about my birthday being tainted. It was more that I felt guilty that I was celebrating while bombs were being dropped on innocent people in Iraq. Needless to say, it was not a happy birthday.

Thursday, the 20th, is also an emotional day for me. I was named after my great grandmother, and last year she grew very sick the weekend before my birthday. I was incredibly upset. For some reason, it was very important to me that she see me, her namesake and the oldest great grandchild, turn 18. It's such a big milestone, and I really wanted her to see me reach it. A few days before she died, we went to visit her in the nursing home, and I held her hand and told her how much I loved her and how proud I was to be named after her. I told her that I was going to be an adult in a few days and that I hoped she would be around to see it. My dad told me later that he thought she was going to die on my birthday so she would be remembered (her husband died on my uncle's birthday) but that she saw how important it was to me that she make it through that day and so she waited an extra day. I found that to be a very touching thought.

The final thing that makes this week so bittersweet is that Friday, the 21st, is the 14th birthday of my little sister Sophie. She was born right after I turned five and unfortunately was only with us for ten days. I suppose it's a bit strange to miss someone that I barely knew, but around this time of year I start wondering what my baby sister would be like and wishing she were still around. She was an exceptional girl, and I loved her very deeply, even though I only knew her for a couple of days. However, two years later, I got another little sister, and I wouldn't trade her for the world. She's one of my best friends, despite the large age difference between us, and I don't know what I would do without her.

I'm sorry if I bored anyone with my ramblings. I just wanted to honor the exceptional people who make this week so memorable and the events that changed my life. All of them were very dear to me, and I hope that wherever they are, they know that I'm thinking about them.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Movie Review: Bobby

It's been a very long time since I've seen a movie that has made me cry. I have to admit, I wasn't expecting too much from "Bobby." I'd heard it was good, and I was interested in seeing it, but it wasn't at the top of my list or anything. I knew that it was about Robert Kennedy and that it was directed by Emilio Estevez, who I knew as Andy Clark in "The Breakfast Club." I knew that it was an ensemble cast starring, among other people, Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, Demi Moore, Anthony Hopkins, and Ashton Kutcher. I knew that it was about the lives of the people who witnessed the assassination of Bobby Kennedy rather than being about Kennedy himself. It looked interesting but didn't strike me as anything spectacular.

Being in college, I don't have money to rent movies, so I rely on the library to provide me with a constant source of films. I have a long list of movies that I want to see, so I just put everything on hold and watch them in the order that they come in rather than choosing which movies I want to watch on a given week. This week, "Bobby" was one of the arrivals, so I decided to watch it tonight, and...I was blown away. This movie gave me cold shivers, which only happens when I'm watching a movie that is REALLY good.

I didn't have high hopes for this movie. I mean, it had Lindsay Lohan and Nick Cannon in it, two actors who hail from the teeny bopper movies put out by Disney and Nickelodeon. No matter how good the other actors were, I just couldn't see these two pulling it off. Nor could I see there being any sort of chemistry between Lindsay Lohan and Elijah Wood. I was proven completely wrong. Every single actor in this movie did a phenomenal job. Not only that, but the writing and directing was brilliant. Estevez masterfully created characters that you could really care about, showing the humanity in each and every one as well as the flaws and the obstacles that they faced. Not only that, but he wove in actual footage of Bobby Kennedy. Well, that makes sense, you might say. After all, the movie is called "Bobby." But although the story centers on the day of his visit and the way he affected the lives of those who believed in him, it was so much more than that. It was a story of young love, of old love, of faded love, of love renewed. It was a story of growing old, of discovering drugs, of facing the terrifying prospect of the draft, of being young, and of having hope in a time that was so full of violence. The story was about the people, not about the politician. Yet the footage still worked to create a deep connection between the viewer and the people shown on the screen.

I don't want to give away the ending. Everyone knows that Bobby Kennedy was shot. That's not the point of the movie. The point of the movie is to show how he affected the lives of so many people and to show that their story, and the story of every single person in the world, is just as important as the story of a Senator. That final scene was so beautiful and so heartbreaking that it brought tears to my eyes. I couldn't help but feel the hope that everyone had upon seeing him speak, which made the hopelessness and the shock that they felt after he was shot seem very real to me. It was something that I could relate to, to some extent. I mean, I've never witnessed an assassination or anything of that sort, but I remember how hopeful I felt when I went to see John Kerry speak before the 2004 election, how happy I was, and how sure that things would get better. And I remember the feeling of utter despair that came when I learned that Bush had won the election. It is the mark of great filmmaking that this movie made me empathize so strongly with the characters and the situation that I was witnessing.

I would strongly recommend that everyone see this movie (if you don't mind the sight of blood, that is. It's not terribly gory, but it is about a shooting). It is beautifully crafted and well acted. Nick Cannon's performance blew me away, and I hope to see him in more serious roles in the future (not that I didn't enjoy Drumline, but he can do so much more). I am very surprised that this movie did not win the Golden Globe for best picture last year. I found it to be much more moving than "Babel". And, while I loved Emilio Estevez in "The Breakfast Club", my respect for him has greatly increased upon seeing this movie. Check it out.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Concert Review: Jack's Mannequin

Last night, I was in Cleveland visiting a friend, and he invited me to see Jack's Mannequin with him. Seeing as how I love Jack's Mannequin, I was thrilled to get a chance to see them live. We managed to get pretty close to the stage, maybe about 10 ft away. There were a fair number of people in our group, and the concert was completely sold out. Some of our friends weren't able to make it, sadly. We got there early to make sure that we got good spots and ended up standing around for a while and chatting.

At 7:00, the opening band came onto the stage. They were called Wake Hollywood, and, I have to admit, I wasn't impressed with them at all. They seemed like they thought they were really good, but honestly they were not great. The singer spent most of the time dancing around the stage and making funny faces. Nothing they did was very original, and the singer didn't seem capable of carrying a tune. All of them, except for the drummer, were dressed in "emo" outfits: black, styled hair; black pants and a black or white shirt; ties or scarves; skinny jeans. It was like watching a caricature of a popular band. We amused ourselves with trying to guess if the bass player was a really androgynous woman or a really effeminate man. It was kind of hard to tell, although it turns out he was male. The other thing that we found amusing was how desperate they seemed for friends. During the 45 minute set, they mentioned several times that they wanted to be invited to a party, and when we looked at their Myspace later that night to solve the bassist gender mystery once and for all, we noticed that three out of the four members had their Instant Messenger screennames listed in the hopes that somebody would add them. It was kind of pathetic really.

Thankfully, Jack's Mannequin's performance more than made up for the terrible opening act. Despite the fact that concert conditions were not ideal, they still managed to put on a terrific show. The acoustics could have been better (we were in a gymnasium), and the crowd was too drunk and rowdy, but none of that mattered. It didn't even matter that the tallest guy in the audience was standing right in front of me, making it very difficult to see without straining. Andrew McMahon and his band made it all worthwhile.

He opened the show with "I'm Ready," to screams of delight from the audience, and continued to play favorites such as "The Mixed Tape," "Dark Blue," "Bruised," "We Were Made for Each Other/You Can Breathe," and "Rescued," as well as several songs from his new album. The crowd was wild. People were ramming into one another, and I was nearly knocked over several times. My friend was practically holding me up. I had to hold my camera above my head in order to get even a semi clear shot of the band. It was very intense. Everyone sang along to their favorite songs, and Andrew played it up, leaning toward the audience and walking around the stage when he wasn't playing piano. When he finished his water, he threw the empty bottle out across the audience, and people scrambled to grab it. He never faltered, not even when one of his microphones came loose and a techie had to come and fix it in the middle of a song. He even attempted to tighten it himself, without missing a single beat. Nor was he fazed when, in the heat of the moment, he accidentally knocked over his piano stool. He simply continued with the song.

The concert ended, and Jack's Mannequin left the stage, to the disappointment of all. Someone began chanting, "One more song! One more song!" Soon, everybody had joined in. The band seemed to be expecting it, and they returned to the stage, grinning. Andrew announced that the next song was going to be "an old one." He played a few notes on the piano, then began a song called "Me and the Moon" by his old band, Something Corporate. Fewer people seemed to know the words to this one (I was one of the few :p), but it was still met with enthusiasm. Once he finished "Me and the Moon," he surprised the audience by launching into "American Girl" by Tom Petty and jumping up on top of his grand piano. Everyone was dancing and cheering. It was an explosive finale to an absolutely amazing concert. I left the gymnasium feeling energized and very content, all thoughts of the terrible opening act forgotten (until later, of course, when I was able to think clearly again).

Monday, February 4, 2008


Today is the 40th Anniversary of the song "Across the Universe." It's also the first day ever to be dedicated to the Beatles. To celebrate, NASA broadcast "Across the Universe" into space. How cool is that? Sorry for the short post, but I'll wax poetic about the Beatles later. For now, here's the site.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oscar Nominations Announced!

As I believe I've said before, I love film awards shows, and Oscar night is one of my favorite nights of the year. So, here is the list of the nominees for the 2008 Academy Awards, and here's who I'll be rooting for:

Actor in a Leading Role: Viggo Mortenson, simply because I love him. I wouldn't mind seeing George Clooney or Johnny Depp snag the Oscar either.

Actor in a Supporting Role: I've always had a soft spot for Casey Affleck. I think he's a better actor than his brother and is very underrated. I would not mind at all seeing him take home an Oscar.

Actress in a Leading Role: I'm rooting for Ellen Page, although I doubt they'll give her the Oscar. I always like seeing young folk in the list of Oscar Nominees. You know they must be good to contend with the more seasoned actors. I also like Cate Blanchett and Laura Linney, so I wouldn't mind seeing one of them with an Oscar.

Actress in a Supporting Role: It's highly likely that Cate Blanchett will leave with at least one Oscar this year. I think it's cool that she took on the challenge of playing Bob Dylan. She always picks interesting movies to star in. However, I'm rooting for Saoirse Ronan because she came out of nowhere and blew everyone away with her talent. She's also starring in the movie "The Lovely Bones" which is due to come out soon. Despite the fact that she is somewhat of a newcomer to film, she's being picked for very challenging and interesting roles, which I commend her for.

Animated Feature: As I said before, I'm cheering on "Ratatouille", and I don't think it will have too much trouble winning, although I wasn't expecting to see "Persepolis" in this category.

Art Direction: Not having seen most of these films (I'm slipping this year!), I can't make a definitive statement in this category. However I will say that I don't think "The Golden Compass" deserves to win. It was an okay movie, but I certainly didn't foresee any Oscar Nominations. I don't think it was THAT good.

I'm not going to comment on many of the other categories because I haven't seen the films and, therefore, couldn't tell you who did a better job.

Film Editing: "The Bourne Ultimatum" is the only film I've seen out of this category, but I have to say that the film editing in it was spectacular. They did a great job editing to build suspense, and I definitely think it deserves the Oscar.

Makeup: Okay, seriously. "NORBIT" is nominated? Are you kidding me? That movie looked TERRIBLE. I mean, it's Eddie Murphy in a fat suit. No matter how good the makeup was, that movie does not deserve the recognition and honor of being nominated for an Academy Award. I will, of course, be rooting for "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." I'm a sucker for that trilogy.

Music (Score): Out of the films listed, I've only seen "Ratatouille", but I thought that the soundtrack was superb. I won't be broken hearted if it doesn't win, though.

Music (Song): "Falling Slowly" should win, hands down. "Once" was a fantastic movie, and that song was absolutely wonderful. I could listen to it over and over again. I'm glad that "Once" was recognized in at least one category.

Sound Editing: "The Bourne Ultimatum" definitely has my vote. Just like with the film editing, the sound editing did a superb job of enhancing the tension in the movie. That entire trilogy is fantastic.

Visual Effects: I'm definitely thinking that "Pirates of the Caribbean" has this one all wrapped up. I just can't see "The Golden Compass" or "Transformers" winning an Oscar. I think that this is probably a similar case to the one we had in 2006, where "Dead Man's Chest" was up against "Poseidon" and "Superman Returns." Neither of those movies were of Oscar caliber, but there had been a lack of special effects-heavy movies that year, and they needed some fillers.

I wish I could comment on the other categories, but I haven't seen most of the movies nominated due to a lack of time and funds. However, this was a very good year for movies. A lot of interesting looking films came out, and I will catch up on them just as soon as the DVDs come in at the library.

Fond Memories of Heath

Like the rest of the world, I was saddened and shocked to hear that Heath Ledger had passed away yesterday. However, I think that it is disrespectful to his family and to his memory to lament his death simply because he was a pretty face. I'm not going to pretend that I knew him personally, because I didn't, but I'd like to pay tribute to the person that I saw and the impressions that I got from him. The most important thing about him was that it was obvious that he loved his two year old daughter, Matilda Rose, more than anything else in the world. Every time he mentioned her, he spoke of her with such genuine happiness and pride. I don't think that anyone could question the fact that she meant the world to him.

Another thing that I admired about Heath Ledger was that he seemed very down to earth compared to many actors out there. He wasn't constantly engaged in scandals, nor was there a picture of him and his family on the cover of every issue of People Magazine and other celebrity gossip magazines. He actively tried to avoid the Paparazzi and to keep them away from his family. Occasionally his temper got the better of him when he was dealing with the press, but he always apologized and owned up to his mistakes later on. Besides, the entertainment media is so inconsiderate, I can't say I blame him for getting angry with their constant attempts to invade his private life.

The thing that always stuck out to me about Heath Ledger, though, was his dedication to his acting and his resolve not to get type cast as a Hollywood Heartthrob. He never played the same role twice, and he actively sought out characters that were complex and difficult to play, even if it meant pissing off producers in the process. Each character that he played was so different that sometimes I forgot that it was the same actor. Not only that, but his performances in his various roles were superb. He made me laugh in "Brothers Grimm" and cry in "Brokeback Mountain." At the 2006 Oscars, I cheered him on from my living room and was very disappointed when Phillip Seymour Hoffman took home the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role instead of him. I was looking forward to watching his career progress and seeing him win an Oscar sometime in the near future, and I am very sad that this will not be the case.

Finally, I would like to extend my sympathies to Heath Ledger's family, although I doubt that they will ever read this. I can't imagine how hard it must be for them to not only deal with the death of their beloved son/brother but also to have to deal with all the media attention. I am thoroughly disgusted with the coverage of this incident and wish that the media would respect the family's wishes to be left alone and to not speculate about the cause of his death. It's bad enough that the family found out about his death on the news. Spreading rumors about him is only adding insult to injury and is incredibly callous of the entertainment industry. I also am disgusted with the way that TMZ cornered Lindsay Lohan to try and get her to comment. Whether or not rumors are true and she and Heath Ledger were romantically involved, it was obvious that she was very distraught over his death. I don't particularly like Lindsay Lohan, but I think that she deserves more respect from bottom feeding celebrity gossip sites like TMZ especially in such difficult times. Whether she and Heath were mere acquaintances, good friends, or something more, she deserves time to process this event and grieve without having a camera shoved in her face.

Rest in Peace, Heath Ledger. You were an inspirational actor, and you will be missed greatly.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oh God, I'm turning into my mother!!

Since this weekend was Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, a lot of people went home to visit their families. My group of friends consists of me and two other girls and about ten guys. Both the girls went home for the weekend, so I was left all by my lonesome with the boys. It wasn't so bad, although I wouldn't necessarily call it exciting. My weekend consisted of watching Star Wars, watching the boys play Halo, and watching the boys compete in a Guitar Hero tournament. Since there were less people around, I ended up getting a lot closer with the boys who were still in the dorm. I also realized that my mothering instinct is starting to show. One of the guys has a really bad cold. He didn't have any cough drops, and he was drinking hot water to try and soothe his throat. I, of course, have a full supply of tea, honey, kleenex, and cough drops in my room, which I readily offered up to him. At least he made the tea himself. It makes me feel somewhat less motherly. Also, this weekend the guys learned that I make a lot of jewelry, and one of them asked me to make him a watch. (For those who don't understand, you buy a watch face and then make a band to match) I told him I would be happy to. Today, I thought of how my mom is always making things for people. The only difference is, she knits and I make jewelry and do metalwork. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that I'm turning into the "mother" of my friends. I don't mind so much. I like taking care of people. I just think it's funny how these things turn out.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"The Lord of the Rings" = Frankenstein's monster

I have come to realize, upon rereading Tolkien's masterpiece, that the film trilogy of "The Lord of the Rings" is a little bit like Frankenstein's monster. You see, it's made up of bits and pieces taken from different parts of the books and sewn together in a different order. Don't get me wrong, I think it works very well. Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens did a fantastic job with these scripts, much better than most screenwriters working on an adapted film. However, I find it very funny when I discover that well known lines from the movies are actually taken from very different parts of the books. As I'm only eight chapters into "The Fellowship of the Ring" currently, I haven't discovered all that there is to find. However, I've found many already, and I will share my findings with you.

"So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." - In the movie, Gandalf says this line when Frodo has fallen into despair in the Mines of Moria. However, the actual line is taken from Chapter II of "The Fellowship of the Ring", when Gandalf is explaining the history of the One Ring to Frodo.

"Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement." - Another movie scene from Moria, when Frodo notices that Gollum is following them and expresses his disappointment that Bilbo did not kill him when he had the chance. In the book, this speech is also taken from Chapter II, "A Shadow of the Past", set in the kitchen of Bag End. Somehow, it's less inspirational when heard in a warm kitchen, isn't it?

"Hey ho, to the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall and wind may blow
But many miles be still to go

Sweet is the sound of the falling rain
And the stream that runs from hill to plain
But better than rain or rippling brook
Is a mug of beer inside this Took" - Merry and Pippin sing this song in the Green Dragon in the extended version of "The Fellowship of the Ring." The first verse is pretty much correct, although it starts with "Ho ho ho" instead of "Hey ho." It is a drinking song that Sam and Pippin sing in Chapter IV, "A Shortcut to Mushrooms," that attracts the attention of one of the Black Riders. The second verse, however, is taken from the Bath Song that Pippin sings when they are in Frodo's new home in Crickhollow (not pictured in the movie). The verse actually goes, "O! Sweet is the sound of the falling rain, / And the brook that leaps from hill to plain, / But better than rain or rippling streams / Is Water Hot that smokes and steams."

"...turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise." - This is perhaps my favorite. It's taken from Chapter VIII, "Fog on the Barrow-Downs," and is actually a description of Frodo looking across the downs. Unlike the other three examples, whose meaning stayed the same even if the lines were in different places, this line is found in "The Return of the King," when Gandalf is describing death to Pippin. It is also found in the Annie Lennox song "Into the West" that plays during the credits. I find it hilarious that the beautiful, peaceful description that Gandalf gives to Pippin actually has nothing to do with death or the Undying Lands but is actually a description of a rather sinister place, the Barrow-Downs.

Yes, I know I'm a geek. So are all my friends, though. We were discussing this very subject last night, along with goofs from the movie, and cool camera tricks that were used in the films. What a fun Friday night. :-P

Movie Review: Ratatouille

What can I say? "Ratatouille" definitely deserved the Best Animated Picture in the Golden Globes. At my friend Jack's urging, a group of us got together to watch the adorable, hilarious movie today. Jack had been raving about it for months, telling us repeatedly that he had gone to see it twice in the theaters, it was that good. Naturally, I was a bit skeptical. I have lost all trust in Disney movies. Occasionally they come out with something good, but most of their recent movies have been, let's face it, pretty trashy. I like most of their collaborations with Pixar, but I am getting sick of the CG animation. It's good in small amounts, but almost every animated movie uses this style, unless it's an anime, and it's getting fairly old.

"Ratatouille", however, was a fantastic movie. The story followed the predictable Disney curve. An outcast finds a place that he fits in but must hide his identity in order to remain there. Everything is going well until someone discovers his secret. There is an argument with his one ally and everything falls apart. Just when things hit rock bottom, the main character finds a way to fix the situation and everything turns out okay in the end. As I said, it's classic Disney. It is not the plot that makes it a great movie, though.

The movie is full of jokes that, surprisingly, had me laughing out loud. I would have been surprised at the content of some of the jokes had I not become accustomed to Disney's habit of sneaking somewhat mature material into their children's movies. They always seem to pull it off, though, and rather than roll my eyes, I actually chuckled a bit. Also, the graphics were fantastic. While the characters were very cartoony, some of the settings could have been mistaken for photographs. Not only that, but the soundtrack was incredibly enjoyable as well. All in all, it was a great movie and I would highly recommend it, even to those who don't enjoy animated movies (coughMOMcough). I will be entirely unsurprised when it wins the Oscar for Best Animated Picture in February.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Nobody's Funnier Than the Marx Brothers!

How true, how true. Originally, I was going to do a review of the movie I watched in my Billy Wilder class, "Ninotchka," but it reminded me of the Marx Brothers, which caused me to crave their humor. So, an hour before the library closed, I took the shuttle down and rented two Marx Brothers movies. No matter how many times I watch them, the jokes never get old, and I've been watching them since I was about five years old. I loved the Marx Brothers when I was little, especially Harpo. His unique form of comedy, a blend of charades and slapstick (with a lot of wordplay thrown in), mixed with the fact that he was always the underdog made me grow to love him, so much that for a while I had an invisible friend named "Harpo."

The reason Harpo appealed to me as a child was that he was funny but intelligent. I never watched the Three Stooges, and once I finally saw one of their movies, I found them to be dull and repetitive. They were nothing compared to the Marx Brothers. The reason I compare them to Harpo is that out of the three brothers, his humor was the most stoogelike. There was slapstick and people getting hit over the head with hammers and all of that, but it was used in moderation and was mixed with a highly intelligent miming act that involved a lot of wordplay (example: he mimed the words "Bee" and "Twist" to communicate the name "Beatrice" to his brother, Chico). This was appealing to the my younger self because I could understand it. Most of Groucho's jokes went over my head, and Chico mostly interacts with the other two. His comedy comes from his interaction with other people rather than a solo act like his brothers. Granted, none of them would be as funny without the other two, but since Chico is a fast talker, he needs someone to play off of.

I think it is sad how few people these days have even heard of the Marx Brothers, specifically people in my generation. They were comic geniuses. They had trademark gags that were used in every movie, but their jokes were fresh and never got old. It wasn't like they did the same thing over and over again. Sure, the storylines of their movies were pretty formulaic, but the story wasn't the part that mattered. What mattered was the humor that the brothers brought to the film. So much in our culture has been affected by the Marx Brothers, and very few youngsters know the origins. For example, those plastic Groucho glasses, with the giant nose and the thick black eyebrows and moustache. Every child and young adult has seen them used somewhere, but none of them know who Groucho is. Or how about some of those famous Groucho quotes? "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know." Classics! Many people know these quotes, but a lot of them couldn't tell you where they're from. Or what about that classic scene from "A Night at the Opera"? You know the one I'm talking about. Chico, Harpo, and Allan Jones have stowed away in Groucho's suitcase, and his tiny room is very crowded. Suddenly, there's a knock on the door. The engineer comes in. More and more people knock on the door, and the tiny room is soon full of crew members, manicure ladies, waiters bearing food, housekeepers, etc. The boat is rocking back and forth, and everyone is being thrown from side to side. Harpo is, of course, managing to use this to climb all over the women. This scene has been imitated in many other films and tv shows. One day I was watching "The Disney Channel" and saw a parody of it on "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody." How much would you bet that none of the young actors had any idea what they were imitating?

One of the wonderful things about the Marx Brothers is that they are timeless. Very few of their jokes are dated. Audiences today find them just as funny as audiences in the 1930s (if they're actually taking the time to watch their movies). Although we've heard similar humor in other things, it's never quite the same. After all, to quote the Aaron Sorkin show "Studio 60", "Nobody's funnier than the Marx Brothers." It's true. No matter how much people try, they cannot capture the quirky charm that those men had. You can repeat their jokes, but they're not quite as funny without the personalities, are they?

The other thing that I love about Marx Brothers movies is that they truly are great family films. My parents were very wise in showing those films to me as I was growing up. Now, when I say that they're family films, I'm not referring to the bright, sugar-coated "family films" that you see today. Those are children's films, and are very rarely engaging to the parents. No, the Marx Brothers are true family films, meaning they appeal to people of all ages. Adults can enjoy Groucho's wit, sarcasm, and innuendo while their children laugh at the antics of Harpo and Chico. The best part is that Groucho's jokes, while adult, are subtle enough to go right over the children's heads. So while the meaning of the joke may be inappropriate for young people, it is so veiled in innuendo that there is no way that they will figure it out. This way, parents can enjoy side splitting adult humor without having to struggle to find a time when the kids are in bed. How often do you find a movie like that?

I'm almost done, but I'd just like to mention something about the music. As I said, Marx Brothers movies are intelligent. They always involve some sort of musical number, often sung by the male romantic lead, but there is always that part of the movie where Chico plays the piano and Harpo plays the harp. Now, when Chico plays, it is fun and energetic. He never took piano lessons seriously, so while he is incredibly talented, playing piano is something of a joke to him. His form is terrible but very fun to watch, and it is more of a spectacle than a showcase of an amazing piano piece. My favorite part, though, is when Harpo sits down to play the harp. Even as a child, I loved this part. I think it's because Harpo is such a clownish character that it's nice to see him being serious for a few minutes. It grounds him in reality and shows the viewers his humanity. You see, Harpo was always the music lover of the family, but Chico was the one who got to take piano lessons. So Harpo taught himself to play the harp and became incredibly good at it. Whereas Chico's piano playing is sort of a continuation of the humor in the film, Harpo's harp solos are beautiful and moving. He is concentrating intently, and you can see in his face how much he loves playing. It's enough to bring tears to your eyes, and it's a nice little break from laughing so much. A Marx Brothers movie without Harpo playing the harp is no good. (As a side note, never watch "Room Service." I thought it would be good because it was a Marx Brothers movie with Lucille Ball, but it was terrible. She wasn't given any funny lines, and none of the Marx Brothers' regular gags were used in the movie. They didn't even play any music!!)

So if you want a good, family friendly laugh, go rent a Marx Brothers' movie. I would especially recommend "A Night at the Opera", "A Day at the Races", and "Horse Feathers." Also, if you want a really funny one with almost no plot but a lot of great jokes, watch "Monkey Business." It'll crack you up.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Movie Review: The Core

I'm pretty sure the only thing that I can say about this movie is "WTF?!" It's a sci-fi movie about a fictional scenario where the outer core of the earth stops spinning threatening our very existence and a team of scientists and astronauts has to build a ship to go in and restart the core. All the science in it is completely faked and there are so many errors that it's not even funny. Well, actually, it's completely and utterly hilarious. The movie stars Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart, and the acting is absolutely horrendous. You could basically boil it down to people looking serious and occasionally screaming, "I'M IN EMOTIONAL PAIN!" Well, not really, but that's how it comes across. Also, the errors are just hilarious because they're really basic things that could be fixed simply by looking the information up on Google, such as listing incorrect latitude and longitude coordinates for the United Nations, placing it in Belize City, Belize, or informing the audience that the Marianas Trench is located in the South Pacific rather than the North Pacific. I have to say, though, my favorite goof is this:

"At about 9 minutes into the film, when the pigeons are all dying, the people run from Trafalgar Square into a building with large windows at the front. Moments later, we see several birds striking and breaking the windows. If you watch carefully, you will see that at least two of the birds that hit the window are, in fact, fish."

That's right, folks. They threw fish at the window and tried to pass them off as birds. I mean, HONESTLY. This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen, but it's worth watching if you want some good laughs.

For more goofs, check out imdb. They're pretty funny.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Golden Globes Cancelled!!!

That's right, the Golden Globes have been cancelled. Rather than having a huge banquet and ceremony, they will be announcing the winners at a press conference on January 13th. I believe that this has something to do with the writer's strike, although I will have to do more research to confirm that. I only just read it on their site a few minutes ago. I have to say that I am very disappointed. I'm one of those weirdoes who actually enjoys watching awards shows and will sit down and watch them straight through. I was really looking forward to the Golden Globes, and it was a blow when I found out that they had been cancelled. I still support the writers, though, and feel that my disappointment is a small price to pay for their cause. However, I am really hoping that the Oscars will not be affected. I wait all year for them and will be incredibly unhappy if they are cancelled as well.

For more information, check out the official Golden Globes website.

Movie Review: I Am Legend

I'm not a huge fan of the zombie movie genre, but I watched "I Am Legend" tonight, and I have to say that I was impressed. It wasn't so much a movie about zombies as a movie about the survival of Dr. Robert Neville and his struggle to find a cure to the terrible disease that caused people to begin behaving that way. Zombies isn't even the right term for them, actually. Rather than being the living dead, they are people who have been infected by a mutated measles virus and turned into vicious creatures who can only come out at night. Despite the fact that this premise comes across as a horror movie, it was a very emotional film. It was engaging and suspenseful, and there were several times that it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Overall, I thought it was a fantastic movie. I would not recommend it for children or people who are easily disturbed, however. It contains some fairly horrific themes and parts that are difficult to watch. Still, I enjoyed it immensely.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Billy Wilder

So one of the classes that I'm taking this semester is a class examining the works of film director Billy Wilder. Now, when I signed up for the class, I had no idea who Billy Wilder was. It just sounded like an interesting class. When I told my mom, though, she said, "Isn't he the guy who directed Some Like It Hot?" THAT got me even more excited. I watched Some Like It Hot with my best friend several years ago because I'm a Jack Lemmon fan, and I thought it was hilarious. In fact, according to the American Film Institute, it's the #1 comedy of all time. Billy Wilder is incredibly good at writing witty dialogue.

Not only is his writing funny, though, he himself was very funny in person. We watched a film called "Billy Wilder Speaks," where his friend and fellow director Volker Schlöndorff set up a camera and interviewed him at his office for two weeks. It's not a very professional interview, which in a way is good because it gives you an idea of what he was really like. In the video, he was very honest and relaxed, never too insulting about the actors he worked with, but also never patronizing. I wish I'd had the sense to copy down some of the things he said, because he made me laugh pretty hard. However, I do have some quotes from imdb, so here they are. Enjoy! (and check out his movies).

"Anyone who doesn't believe in miracles isn't a realist."

"It was a very tiny little thing. All of his theories were based on the analysis of very short people!" (Upon seeing Sigmund Freud's therapy couch)

"They say Wilder is out of touch with his times. Frankly, I regard it as a compliment. Who the hell wants to be in touch with these times?"

"A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant, and a bastard."

"Breasts like granite and a brain like swiss cheese." (On Marilyn Monroe)

"Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else's."

"France is the only country where the money falls apart and you can't tear the toilet paper."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Hooray for Viggo Mortenson!

Being a huge Lord of the Rings geek, I have had a soft spot for Viggo Mortenson since the movies came out. He's a fantastic actor who completely dedicated himself to the role of Aragorn. Talent aside, I often find myself disappointed in actors. They have so much money and influence in this country, yet so few of them use it well. In my mind, actors have an obligation to use the resources that the rest of us lack to really make a change. Rather than simply donating to charities or saying that, yes, this is an issue that needs to be dealt with, why don't they step up and take some more action? It's not like they lack the funds. However, from the very beginning of his stardom, Viggo Mortenson has been the exception. When the U.S. went into Iraq, he was one of the most vocal celebrities, using his Lord of the Rings press conferences to express his views on the situation and signing the Not In Our Name petition. A couple of years later, he joined Cindy Sheehan in Texas as she camped outside Bush's ranch for a month in protest of the war. Now, he is fighting the corruption and injustice in our election system, protesting the fact that Dennis Kucinich was kept out of the last democratic debate, and throwing his weight behind the movement to impeach Dick Cheney. He gained my respect years ago, but it has increased immensely with this latest act. He is a truly inspirational person, and I hope I get the chance to meet him and tell him so someday. I also hope that other actors follow his lead and begin fighting for what they believe in.

Here is the article on his latest activism, if you have any interest in reading it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

I'm Back!

Sorry I haven't written in a while. Things have been very busy. They're still busy, in fact, so to tide people over, I'd like to post another review of "The Golden Compass," which I saw again last night. I got many positive comments in response to my review, so I'd like to direct people to another review that I found to be spot on. This is a review from a paper in Madison, WI, that I found online. It pretty much captures how I felt about the movie and does it very eloquently. Enjoy!