Category Archives: rants

My Masturbatory Self-Indulgence Has a First Name, It’s O-S-C-A-R

Here’s my absolutely 100% guaranteed lock of the night for the upcoming Academy Awards: It will be boring, meaningless, and a waste of time for everyone involved.

I love movies more than most people do. At this stage of my life I could use my accumulated Movie Watcher points to make a down payment on a Toyota Corolla or finance a vacation to Toronto if they would accept my AMC card. I go almost every week and I see everything from indies flicks about gay cowboys eating ice cream to broad romantic comedies where people of a certain gender may or may not be into someone of the other. I read movie blogs all the time. I can usually tell you what new films are coming out on any given Friday without having to consult Fandango.

But for all the love I have for Hollwood’s output, I have an equal amount of scorn for award shows like the Oscars. From the vapid commentary on what the starlets are wearing as they walk down the red carpet to the awkwardly phrased acceptance speeches the entire broadcast strikes me as a supreme waste of time. I’m all for recognizing outstanding work in screenplays, direction, and acting but the whole affair is such an overblown exercise in celebrity obsession. Too much attention goes to dissecting hairstyles and dresses or explaining the dating choices of the attendees and not enough on the actual content of the work that the show is ostensibly designed to recognize.

Hugh Jackman is hosting this year. While I would be hard-pressed to say an unkind word about Wolverine, I don’t know that he can successfully hold the attention of the viewer through the whole broadcast. Past hosts with extensive comedy experience like Jon Stewart and Dave Letterman have had trouble keeping the show moving forward so Jackman will be in good company if he stumbles.

But my problems go beyond annoyance with the pomp and circumstance that surround the ceremony and into the conceptual core. The Academy makes some odd choices in the way  it picks nominees, trying to split the difference between rewarding risk-taking heartfelt turns in little seen films like The Visitor and recognizing the Oscar Bait showiness of Artful Roles like Brad Pitt’s portrayal of the titular Benjamin Buttons. But nobody saw the former and the latter was as safe and conventional as it could be. That dichotomy between the unseen and the overseen lies at the heart of why the Academy Awards can never truly become a means of either recognizing the best or rewarding the riskiest.

Add to that the smug, self-congratulatory tone that can’t help but seep out of a four hour telecast of actors honoring themselves and you have a truly unbearable night of television.

Remember, It’s Not the Gas Station Owners Who are Bending You Over. Rather They are Joining You in Being Bent.

Everyone hates paying the ridiculously high price for a gallon of gasoline, even if it is less than they pay in other countries. I live in a city where the gas prices are among the highest in the state, in a state where the gas prices are among the highest in the country, in a country where the gas prices are the among the highest middle of the road/lowest in the world. While I don’t drive often and use public transport as often as I can, it’s easy to get frustrated when it seems like you have to sink your entire paycheck into your gas tank. But before you try to drag your local gas station attendant through the pay window and lay a beatdown of biblical proportions on their ass, stop and reflect.

The owners of your local Kwik-E-Mart are not responsible for the pinch. In fact they are victims of it to a much greater degree than you are. Owners of gas stations make virtually nothing from the sale of petroleum products alone. Think about it: How often do you see a gas station that sells only gas? Probably never. They almost always sell snacks and porn or do mechanical work and that’s where the real money comes in. The profit margin on a gallon of gas is next-to-nothing. The Freakonomics blog reports one local Shell station owner is fighting back against the company kamikaze-style. Like an enraged Viking Berserker, the owner doesn’t care if he drives himself out of business as long as he drags his opponent screaming down to hell with him. The owner bears the improbable and slightly hilarious name of Bob Oyster plans to fight back. He says

“that Shell and other big companies are squeezing service-station owners way too hard, and he plans to shut down his station soon anyway. “I’m going out with a bang,” he said. “And I don’t care if I don’t pump a gallon on the last day.”

His plan is to jack up the prices even higher than what the oil company sets for him in order to create negative branding when the people associate his inflated numbers with the shell logo.

Get ’em, Oyster.

link (via Freakonomics)

Monoculture in Motion

This is a little rant from Transmetropolitan, set to music and made to look all pretty with motion and the like. This little speech always intrigued me and inspired not one, but two separate papers during my undergrad career. This looks pretty cool, but it sounds like the narrator has a slight lisp that I found a little distracting. Also, he isn’t quite vitrilolic enough for my tastes. Oh well.

via Warren Ellis

Some thoughts on e-1337-ism

Bill Maher has an article up on Salon going over one of his “New Rules” in which he mentions that 150 graduates of Regent University have been hired by the Bush administration. For those of you who don’t know, Regent is the oh-so-prestigious law school run by funda-nut Pat Robertson. Maher goes on to attack the school as being on the lowest rung of the ranking ladder, a law school for people “who couldn’t get into the University of Phoenix.” and then attacks the way in which the concept of elitism has come to be demonized.

He makes some good points. Chief among them, that in most areas we want the elite, from sports to warfare we admire those who have the natural talent and discipline to drive themselves to excel in their chosen fields. But not in politics. For some reason, we have a tendency to want our leaders to be folksy and accessible instead of smart and competent. Now I’m not saying that people who have the word “State” on their diplomas are incapable of leadership, or that only the wealthiest of wasps understand the needs of the country. But I like the idea that of the philosopher king even if it doesn’t always turn out for the best. I want the geekiest of the geeks to fix my computer when it is broken, I want the greasiest of wrench monkeys to fix my car, I want the tweediest of coats to teach me in school and I want the smartest people in the world working on the problems of how to govern.

I agree with Maher that there is nothing wrong with looking to the elite, and I’m pretty sure you won’t find very many of them under the tutelage of Robertson who functions as a kind of caricature of fundamentalism gone awry. But I don’t think we necessarily need to keep the justice department staffed with the top 1% of Harvard and Yale. The real problem I have with the fact that this administration recruits so heavily from Regent is that it yet another mowing down of the church-state barrier in favor of a fundamentalist Christianist agenda. If Regent were a place of serious academic chops instead of a bible-thumping diploma mill, there might be more justification. It seems clear to me that the primary reason for hiring so many Regent alumni has far less to do with their legal acumen than their religious convictions.

I’ll get back to talking about comic books and mixed martial arts later…

Dana White v. Tito Ortiz

What a rip off. I got suckered in to watching this mess after The Ultimate Fighter lat night. At first I assumed it would be a half-hour long affair that explored a little of the backstory on their feud and culminate with their boxing match. A half hour had passed and they hadn’t gotten anywhere. I figured it had to be an hour (I was too lazy to check the guide) but it was a full hour and a hlaf long. Most of the show revolved around UFC president Dana White training for a contractually obligated sparring match with Tito Ortiz. There was a rather uninspired telling of the disagreement between them which revolved mostly around contract disputes and ill will from White’s time as Ortiz’ manager. It was a little dull, but okay. Then at the end, Tito doesn’t show up for a weigh in and they never fight. It was ridiculously anticlimactic and I had to wonder why I had bothered staying awake.

Sure and Begorrah

It’s that time of year again, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts Guinness and avoiding the pinching punishment of those who forget to wear green. It’s a magical time of year when we can all come together over a pint and look back at the man who made Ireland a serpent-free zone, your man Saint Patrick.

Most people don’t realize that the brother wasn’t even Irish. He was kidnapped from Britain when he was young and the pirates sold him as a slave to some Irish folks. He eventually escaped, but returned years later as a missionary. Tradition has it that he was responsible for converting the pagan Celts to Christianity. He was an early appreciator of a good visual aid, and used the shamrock to drop some knowledge on the locals and help them understand the concept of the holy trinity. Most awesomely, legend has it that old Padraig was able to banish every last snake from the emerald isle. Chances are there weren’t any there to begin with, but the Irish have never been known to let the truth get in the way of a good story.

What does all this have to day with the holiday we celebrate tomorrow? Absolutely nothing for most people. The masses tend to use it as an excuse to drink way more than they should, wear stupid plastic green derbies and generally act like wankers. Now far be it from me to hate on St. Paddy’s day, but I do get annoyed at the amateur night spectacle of people trying to order Guinness, trying a sip and realizing they don’t like before going back to green beer. Green food coloring in beer? Why? I find it both retarded and gross. And then there are the fuckwits who go about doing their best Lucky Charms impression and making futile attempts to riverdance.

Leave it to the professionals.

I went to a catholic school filled with Irish nuns who would frequently threatened to whack us their shillelaghs if we did not behave. St. Patrick’ s Day was the center of the school at year at St. Marys. Uniform restrictions were relaxed to allow the wearing of green. There was a day long festival where Sister Joan Grace would dance a jig and lead the entire school in several good old drinking songs. At one point, they even used the “The Wild Rover,” a song about drunken gambling and general debauchery to illustrate the biblical parable about the prodigal son. Good times.

I drink Guinness, Jameson’s, and Bushmills. I love potatoes, and I eat them like apples. I listen to Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, The Pogues, and even U2. I went to catholic school, have kissed the blarney stone, and once wrote a thesis paper on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I have many siblings. My name is Sean MacGillivray, and Saint Patrick’s Day is mine. Leave the plastic shamrock at home.

Just For the Record

<rant>

I do not care about Anna Nicole. I did not care about her when she was in movies. I did not care about her when she had her own reality show. I did not care when she got married, or went to court about the dead billionaire’s billions. I did not care when her son died. I certainly did not care when she died, and I think you can guess whether or not I care about this paternity froo-fra.

Apparently CNN, MSNBC, and the last bastion of decency that is FoxNews disagree and think I should care very much about Anna Nicole. That is the reason why they have been giving round-the-clock coverage of this nonsense. I know there isn’t 24 hours worth of real news every day, but is it really serving the public good to give constant live coverage of the paternity trial of a dead stripper while we are:

1. Enmeshed in a problematic occupation (with Iraq)

2. Almost starting a second war (with Iran)

3. Brokering a nuclear disarmament deal (with North Korea)

4. Exchanging harsh words (with Russia)

5. In the early stages of a presidential election (at home)

6. In the middle of a divided government

7. Deciding the future of how we legislate information monopolies (Sirius/XM)

8. Etc. Etc. Etc.

</rant>

Dork Dispatch: Ghost Rider

Somewhere deep inside me lurks the soul of a full on Comic Book Guy. I like comic books, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve been reading them for most of my life, and I’ve accumulated a fair amount of comics knowledge, though I try to keep from foisting it upon the uninterested. I have varying degrees of success with this, but I’m generally pretty good about reserving my in-depth explanations of comic book lore for situations that call for it. Because of this, I am the Go-To Geek whenever one of my friends or family members has questions about the four-color world and once in a great while they will solicit me for thoughts and opinions on Comic Movies, because it is where several of my interests intersect.

ghost rider, motorcycle hero

So it’s no wonder people keep coming up to on the street and asking me about Ghost Rider, which stars Nicholas “Almost Superman” Cage and opens this week. To say I’m less than excited about this movie would be like saying that Yogi Bear kind of likes Picnic Baskets. I will go see it, because I am philosophically obligated to see every comic book movie that comes, thus voting with my dollar to keep them coming. But I don’t think I’ll like it. I’m praying for mediocrity on this one, as I feel that is the most anyone can hope for. This fills me with rage, hot fiery rage.

I think the recent emergence of mainstream comic book movies has been a good thing, by and large. It brings well-loved characters into new media and introduces them to a whole new public. Comics are visual narratives and lend themselves well to the cinema (when done right). But for every Batman Begins, we get a Daredevil. For every Spider-Man we get a Catwoman. And for every X-Men, we get a Ghost Rider. In the rush to cash in on the comic movie trend, studios are mining deep, and what they shake out isn’t always cinematic gold. This is a shame because all they can do is tarnish the good name of some cool characters.

A crash course (Get it?) on the Ghost Rider: Originally published in the early 70s, the series told the story of Johnny Blaze, stunt motorcyclist who had sold his soul to the devil in order to cure his step-father’s cancer. The devil was true to his word and he cured the cancer, but Johnny’s dad soon died in a motorcycle accident. When the devil showed up to collect poor Johnny’s soul, he was devil cock-blocked by Johnny’s sweetheart. The pure love of his girlfriend kept the devil at bay, but in revenge he cursed Johnny to become the flaming-skulled demon at night. In effect, Johnny was possessed by a demon who began as an unspeaking cipher but showed more and more personality as the series progressed. The Ghost Rider did not have Johnny’s consciousness, but his thoughts and feelings influenced the otherworldly biker into doing (mostly) good although his unpredictable nature could cause serious harm to Johnny’s friends. He could somehow “burn people’s souls” with his hellfire, and was mean with a chain. There was also a 1990s reboot of the character, with a different young man becoming the Ghost Rider. It was pretty cool, and Dan Ketch served as my introduction to the character, but it is Johnny Blaze who will be the subject of the movie. He’s a stunt rider, an impulsive hothead who also has a heart of gold and must literally and figuratively overcome his demons to save the people he loves.

I think that’s a complex character, and a cool story. So why will the movie suck? It is doomed to fail. I don’t believe there was any possible way to translate Ghost Rider to the big screen. A giant skeleton with a flaming skull riding around on a demonic chopper looks mighty cool on the comics page, but no amount of CGI will save it on the movie screen. Had this been a cartoon maybe it might have stood a chance at coolness, but as it is Ghost Rider looks ridiculous. It is simply too much to ask people to suspend their disbelief that this guy’s head is constantly flickering with infernal fire. It just looks kind of dumb, and if there is one thing the Ghost Rider should never be it is goofy looking. He should be scary. Is this scary?

ghost rider movie

I’ve never gone on record with who my favorite heroes are, but the top three are probably Daredevil, Moon Knight and Ghost Rider. Now two out of three have been brought to the big screen in an aggressively mediocre way. Hopefully Moon Knight is safe. I’m willing to be surprised, but as I enter the theatre on Friday it will be with a sense of dread in my heart as I prepare to let the studio “Daredevil” me into submission.

The Cranky Old Man’s TV Nitpicking Corner

I’ll tell you something. Back in my day, commercials made sense. Unlike the moronic horseshit that passes for television advertisements these days. Case in point:

This commercial is not only irritating and contrived, but fails to make any kind of logical sense and every time it comes on I am filled with vile, venomous rage that I must release. Okay. The commercial starts with the two idiots downloading the song “Rock the Casbah” by the Clash and transferring it to their Cingular phone. Then they proceed to hilariously mispronounce the lyrics. Now I will grant you that the song is difficult to understand. The combination of Joe Strummer’s British accent and occasional punk screaming make certain lyrical passages nearly incomprehensible. But the chorus of “Rock the Casbah,” which these knuckleheads mangle into “Stop the Catbox” is also the title of the song. Which means that they must have seen it during the process of ripping/downloading the song or transferring it to their phones. If nothing else, I contend that unless their parents were brother and sister, they should have gotten the chorus right.

Now if only advertisers would check with me before putting something on the air, I think the level of sophomoric crap that choke our airwaves would greatly reduce.