Silly Lightweights

I don’t know how many people out there are watching the new season of The Ultimate Fighter on SpikeTV, but it is on the second episode of the fifth season and I am getting sick of these sorry jokers already. All the fighters are in the Lightweight class, and that is a first for this show. I’m sure they are all badasses but they are collectively getting on my nerves faster than any reality show contestant before them, and I am laid back dude. Not only are they all out to prove how tough they are (a prerequisite for most men of napoleonic stature that is only intensified by being on a fighting show) but they seem incapable of wearing a hat in the proper manner. I know how fussy and nitpicky that sounds but there it is. I’m not saying they have to wear their hats bill forward in the customary manner of baseball players and Nascar fans. I can get behind a hat worn backwards, but these bozos wear theirs at highly unlikely angles. In every interview they give, their bills are all askew, askance, cock-eyed, helter-skelter, or willy-nilly. I want to reach through the screen and rotate their hats to a less distracting angle. Am I alone in this?

My Mutant Powers

I’ve always wanted to be special. From a young age I felt like I may have special powers that set me apart from feeble, fragile humanity. I can remember sitting and staring and squinting and groaning as I would try to move a kickball using the no doubt awesome power of my mind. It was after I had seen “The Empire Strikes Back” and I couldn’t see any valid reason why I couldn’t levitate my father’s conversion van the way Luke levitated his X-wing. Sadly no amount of brow-furrowing or focus enabled me do it because it seems I am not telekinetic.

But does that mean I don’t have any powers at all? Not necessarily. For every unstoppable killing machine with an immortal healing factor or time-bending Japanese office worker, there have to be several individuals born with less obvious powers. I think I may have one ore more of these abilities, which may not be as flashy as the kind you see in comic books, but make life much more convenient.

For example, I seem to have a prescient sense of timing for television shows. I have an innate sense of when commercials will air and when the show resumes. It goes beyond just good guessing, or a general sense of how long commercials take into the realm of preternatural ability. I can stop and start my DVR on a dime, down to the millisecond when a commercial ends and the show fades up from the break. I can also flip back and forth between channels, effortlessly returning to my primary channel just as the program is restarting. It’s not really something I asked for, like all those gifted with great powers I find it can often be more of a curse than a blessing. Sometimes I miss really clever commercials.

Grindhouse, If only…

So I decided to see Grindhouse over the weekend, and I was blown away. Apparently, this makes me a minority much to the consternation of the enlightened few. I really enjoyed both movies and all the awesome filler that went between them. The “Thanksgiving” horror film parody by Eli Roth was especially charming, in a gag-inducing kind of way. The talent level of everyone involved in the project is through the roof, and the whole idea was original and clever (two qualities I find sorely lacking in most of the detritus that washes into theaters every week.) In some ways, the movie didn’t come together as seamlessly as it could have but the sheer audacious ballsiness required to push something as extreme as Grindhouse into local cineplexes and the joy that obvious went in to making it even out the rough patches.

As you probably know, Grindhouse is two films in one, a classic double feature of the kind I often treat myself to when I weasel my way out of work.

Planet Terror is Robert Rodriguez’ contribution and rocks the house. I was worried that it would be too cartoony, a flaw I find in some of his films and which I detected in the standees depicting Rose McGowan with a machine gun leg. My fears were not entirely unfounded, but the director won me over. It’s a zombie apocalypse film, a genre that I never get tired of. The action was heavy and just a touch over the top but it was so obvious that Rodriguez had a ball making it that the energy of the movie was infectious.

In between the films, there are a number of fake trailers. Kick-ass across the board.

The second part of Grindhouse is a 70’s car chase movie filtered through the talkiest portions of Quentin Tarantino’s brain. There are more than a few long, exceedingly talky scenes before the action kicks in and the rubber meets the road. It’s vintage Tarantino from top to bottom, and if you enjoy that kind of thing you’re in luck. If not, at least you know what you’re getting into. I am a fan of QT so I was okay with the pop-culture references and endless back-and-forth but I did have trouble switching gears from the zombie gunfights of the first entry to the more cerebral dialogue driven opening of Deathproof. It was jarring, but once I had shifted mental gears I was impressed. The end of the film is one extended car chase that blows away any other I’ve seen in recent memory. There are some interesting reversals of typical slasher/chase movie stereotypes and it almost feels like Deathproof was composed of two separate Rashomon-like riffs on the same theme, very nearly giving us 3 films for the price of one.

So it was original, clever, well made, funny, exciting and extreme. So of course people hated it. It didn’t make a whole lot of many, and people are calling it a failure. The length was an issue for many, and at nearly three and a half hours, I can see why people may have been worried about “restless ass” syndrome and I was doing some shifting in the seat before it was over. But it was more than worth putting in the running time, and I appreciate the whole experience more than I think I would enjoy either film on its own. There was a definite gestalt effect that would just be lost if the films came out separately (which is how it will be released overseas, and is being considered here.) I just don’t know.

Vagina Den-What-a?

The Danger Room reports the emergence of a new anti-rape device that’s coming out in South Africa. It is essentially a vagina dentata that ensnares the attackers organ in rows of razor sharp “teeth.”
It’s like something out of a movie. This is really scary and gross to me on a purely personal level. I’m not saying that rapists who find themselves so injured didn’t have it coming or that potential rape victims shouldn’t try to defend themselves, but this seems like a bad idea. Even if, as the inventor says “it’s a medieval device for a medieval deed” and your eye-for-an-eye sense approves of it there are practical reasons why it may do more harm than good.
I don’t think this would incapacitate an attacker, so much as injure him but leave him standing and probably pissed off and therefore still a danger to the victim. I imagine the attacker would be much more likely to kill the victim if he sees his weapon of choice torn to ribbons. Also, it seems rather last resort. There have to be more effective means of self defense that enable would-be victims to protect themselves without letting it go that far.
On the other hand,if knowledge of the device becomes widespread fear of the contraption might act as a general deterrent and the threat of its presence may act as a specific deterrent.

Radio Free Racism? Imus Makes an ASS

Imus-t say,(that probably qualifies as the lamest thing I have ever written) that I’m not really feeling the sense of outrage that everyone else seems to be feeling about this whole thing. I have listened to maybe three minutes of Imus in my entire life. I’m not a fan and I know very little about him or his show, but judging from this transcript (via Eschaton) his remarks just don’t seem that incendiary to me. With the possible exception of using the word “Jigaboos” (although it wasn’t Imus who said it, and it was in reference to a Spike Lee joint) there’s nothing all that salacious going on here. Is “nappy headed Hos” really that offensive? I mean it’s not dinner party conversation, but in the realm of talk radio that barely scratches the surface of offensive speech that Howard Stern and others clawed into the meaty bowels of even before he moved to satellite. So why is Imus being suspended and having to abase himself before Sharpton and the American public? Is it because he is an unfunny blow hard?
I think not. He is popular with advertisers, and as torturous as I find him, he has a following. I’m not gonna come at this from a Free Speech angle, since his bosses are as free to take him off the air as he was to make his dickish remarks. He’s not being shut down, he’s just being attacked. And these attacks fall well within the spectrum of free speech, hence the beauty of the system. And I’m not defending his statements because they were in poor taste, but because they are milder than what gets said elsewhere on a daily basis. If he really wants to push the envelope and keep a running commentary on the relative ho-ishness of multiple female sports teams he is free to take his show elsewhere. The fact that he seems contrite and willingly accepting his suspension suggests that he won’t. And the fact that he apparently gets big time politicians on his show is a strong incentive for him to make his show palatable to enough people so that he can continue to book guests like John McCain.
But the heart of the issue here is not whether he will reign in his antiquated quasi-racist remarks, but on whether he will stop wearing that stupid cowboy hat.

This Friday Night at the Movies?

There are so many movies out that I want to see right now, that my head feels like it might explode every time I look at movietickets.com (the fandango puppets keep me from using the service). I have a whole weekend to kill, but I’m not sure I would be able to see everything that’s out there right now even if I didn’t already have a few Tangos to take care of in Rainbow Six: Vegas this weekend. I’ve been busy the last few weekends, so I haven’t been spending as much time in the darkened comfort of the cinema house as I would like, and things have backed up on me a little bit. Maybe someone out there in the ether can help me make up my mind.

Grindhouse- This one is at the top of my list. It seems that everywhere I look, I see a good review for it, and I’m not the type of person to let the critics decide what I will and will not spend my hard-earned $10.00 on, but all the raves are getting me pumped.

Host- Again, a case where every thing I read makes me just a little more excited to see it. It’s been a while I since I sat down to watch something with subtitles (it’s from Korea (not the crazy one)), so it’ll help me feel smart again. Plus its about tentacled sea monsters. How could it go wrong?

The Lookout- I really liked Brick, and if this is anywhere half as good, that kid from 3rd Rock might be one to watch. I usually don’t “follow” actors so much as directors or writers, but for a select few I make exceptions- like Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. Something about their choice of films make think they have high quality control. Not that there aren’t any duds in the mix, but more hits than misses. And this movie is supposed to be kind of a Memento-ish noir-y deal, right? I’m in.

Shooter- I don’t know why I want to see this, but I do. I have an affinity for celluloid snipers, whether in Sniper or Enemy at the Gates, I just get a kick at watching people look through rifle scopes.

Blades of Glory- I don’t think it will be as funny as Anchorman, or even Talladega Nights but Will Ferrell usually gets a laugh from me. Plus I watched alot of figure skating in my youth. My (completely heterosexual, why do you ask?) father used to love to watch figure skating on Saturday afternoons. Plus it’s got Pam from the Office and I think the people from that show should work as much as possible.

The Hills Have Eyes 2- This might go against some of my rules for going to the movies since it is a sequel to a remake, and no one seems to think it is very good. Why do I want to see it then? Honestly, I think I was affected by that cool victim p.o.v teaser they had with the soul/bluegrass music playing as the camera gets dragged across the desert.

300- Yes, I’ve seen it. But not in IMAX! Imagine seeing the decapitations on a three story screen.

First Snow- A sunshine noir? Don’t know much else about it except it involves a man who sees a psychic and is told he will die by the beginning of winter. Indie cool points.

The Namesake- I hear the novel was excellent, and I always want to learn more about Indian culture.

I suppose there are worse problems to have than two many movies to watch. And it looks like a big summer, with Spider-Man only a month away and Transformers and Fantastic Four 2 on the horizon.

The Problem with Dresden

Dresden Files

Harry Dresden has a problem. People keep turning up at his door and dying. Its good for us, the viewers, because we can watch him go and figure out why and how, but it must get really frustrating for him.

As the only wizard to advertise his services in the Chicago phone book, I guess it makes sense that people being threatened by supernatural menaces would seek him out for help, but as a plot device the many deaths get a little old. I guess that’s true of any detective show, and despite the mystical trappings, The Dresden Files is a detective show in the old-school mode of Simon & Simon or Magnum, P.I. Each episode stands alone, and except for a slowly developing back story of Harry and his murderous Uncle there is no narrative arc that defines the show. It’s less one-off than CSI: Des Moines, since we learn a little more about Harry every episode but it seldom has a bearing on the plot.

Harry Dresden

This became readily apparent when I sat down with some DVR’ed episodes and tried to watch them back-to-back. Since there is no slow burning reveal like Lost and no over-arching story like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the episodes can get redundant. That’s not to say it has House-like levels of repetition where every single act is structured the same way from show to show, but there is enough pattern and predictability to make watching a weekly affair at best. It’s okay to catch it when it airs and then forget about. I am a sucker for stories where magic and the supernatural happen in an otherwise realistic modern setting. Something about the way Harry uses his hockey stick for a magic wand entertains me for reasons I can’t fully articulate. I suppose it has something to do with the juxtaposition and the possibility that things like this might be happening in some dark alley I’ll never get to see. But its not for everybody. The Dresden Files plays it straight, and the ghosts, vampires, and werewolves that Harry contends with can become a little too outrageous, even for this sort of show.

Harry Dresden, Wizard

But if you can get past the strangeness and the repetition, and you miss Remington Steele but always wish he had solved murders involving Bird Demons, The Dresden Files might be for you. It airs on the SciFi Channel, on Sunday nights.

Buried Treasure: From the Bowels of Netflix

DAVID FUCKING MAMET, DAMN IT:

David Mamet was born in 1947 in Chicago. After attending Goddard College in Vermont with future collaborator William H. Macy, he worked primarily as a playwright creating numerous plays including LAKEBOAT, OLEANNA, AMERICAN BUFFALO, SPEED-THE-PLOW, and GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. This was the play that won him the 1984 Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Despite his success with the theatre, he turned his attention to making films, and wrote the screenplays for THE VERDICT, THE UNTOUCHABLES, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, THE EDGE, as well as the film version of GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (which featured 138 uses of the word “fuck,” or a derivative thereof). He also wrote the subject at hand: 1987’s HOUSE OF GAMES, which was his directorial debut. Recent films have included the Hollywood satire STATE AND MAIN, a political send-up WAG THE DOG, other con/caper movies THE SPANISH PRISONER and HEIST, and the Special Forces themed SPARTAN. Like many writers, he has had a thorny relationship with Hollywood going so far as to say in his recent nonfiction work Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business “Hollywood is like cocaine. You cannot understand its attraction until you are doing it. And when you are doing it, you are insane.” He is also deeply religious, and his faith has spurred him to write two books about Judaism: Five Cities of Refuge: Weekly Reflections on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomyand The Wicked Son: Anti-Semitism, Self-hatred, and the Jews He has taught at the Yale School of Drama and founded the Altantic Theater Company in New York. He is also a student of Jiu Jitsu.

THE PLOT:

Dr. Margaret Ford is a best-selling psychologist. One of her patients falls into a debt he can’t repay. To help him, she enters the titular den of iniquity, and agrees to help “Mike” in a high-stakes card game in exchange for her patient’s marker. Continue reading…

The Lexi-Sean: Improving the English Language One Word at a Time 4/03

These are words I would like to see used more often, little nuggets of semantic goodness that I feel are falling into the linguistic cracks where I scoop them up and deliver them to you.

Furl, verb. 1. to gather into a compact roll and bind securely, as a sail against a spar or a flag against its staff.

“What are you doing?” “Oh, nothing. I’m just furling my underwear.”

“Quick, furl that extension cord before someone tries to use it as jumprope.”

“Quick, furl that jumprope before someone tries to use it as an extension cord.”

“I love it when the restaurants furl the napkin around the silverware. Classy!”

“He’s an expert bungee furler. Learned it in the Philippines, he did.”

See if you can’t use “furl” today. It’ll probably get you laid.