August 23, 2007
Superbad, The Ten, the Universe, etc.

This is the book I want with me on a desert island: A Brief History of Time, and take from that statement what you will about me. I think I understand maybe a tenth of it. If you asked me for a picture of how the universe works I could probably give you a decent 17th century answer, but let me read it a few more times. I've progressed passed turtles standing on turtles standing on turtles all the way down, but my mental model of the universe would still be something made of shiny brass and a lot of clockwork spheres revolving inside other spheres. But this new learning astounds me, Sir Bedevere - tell me more of singularities, strings and the arrow of time, and how they might be employed to write a silly science fiction screenplay.

Thanks to friend McFall, I learned about a site called Goodreads where you can track what you've read and what your friends are reading.

I'm usually not thrilled with sites that offer nothing more than the opportunity to catalog what's going on in your offline world - but this one is different; I like knowing what other people are reading, I like the slight competitive tug I feel when someone updates their list.

I've seen:

The Ten. If you like Kentucky Fried Movie, or any absurd sketch comedy, or Reno 911, you should see this one. Fair warning, it's possible you may need to like those influences a LOT - but to me this movie felt like a gift. It's ostensibly an anthology of ten tales revolving around the Ten Commandments, but that's just a loose framework. I wanted to send writers Ken Marino and David Wain a thank-you note for making such an improbable movie - it's imperfect, but amazingly silly. It feels like it got made when the studio wasn't watching. We all knew Paul Rudd was funny, but who knew Liev Schreiber was hysterical?

Superbad. I suppose Satan is going to appear to Judd Apatow very soon and convince him to make his "Home Alone" series. He'll be paid enormously, and the movies will rocket up the "all-time" charts because they will be for EVERYBODY. Apatow will make that coveted transition from man to brand. And all it will cost him is the ability to be funny. But until then, keep them coming, please.

I felt about Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in this movie the same way I felt about John Cho and Kal Penn from "Harold and Kumar..." These guys should stick together for a while. Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor teamed for several movies, not in sequels, and everyone loved it.

There's a moment in a movie when you realize the characters are going to talk intelligently, as if they have known each other as long as they are supposed to - and it's like a sigh of relief. "Superbad" has that, and it also makes an original choice when it comes to the girl that is the object of Evan's lust. She is not perfect and well-adjusted at all, she's just as confused and awkward as he is. There are two levels of reality in the plot, and one of them - the cop story - is not on the same realistic plane, but the whole thing is still a riot.

Sex and Fury. Oh my. If you are a fan of "Kill Bill" to the extent that you look into Tarantino's influences for his epic as I did, you will find that there was a genre from '70s Japan called "Female Yakuza" films. These are karate films with amazing action and beautiful ladies as the heroines, and because the movies might be described as soft-core (although they also tend towards over-the-top S&M), you will often view scenes in which, say, Reiko Ike kicks everyone's ass while completely naked. In fact there's a lot of that.

It's not complete crap by any means. I could not tell you very much of the plot but the movies were gorgeous and psychedelic. "Panik House" just released some of these films under the "Pinky Violence" label. Definitely a guilty pleasure, though some of the violence really is un-PC, so be warned.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We live just blocks away from the NuArt, a long-time bastion of L.A. alternative films, and one Saturday it seemed like a fun idea to go and see this again with the midnight crowd. Not sure why it's taken so long to realize how the movie sort of breaks down around the point where Eddie shows up. I'm still not sure why Frankenfurter hates him so much - (I just googled the lyrics of "Hot Patootie" to find out, and how sad is that) nor why his servants rebel against him at the end.

Of course, WHO CARES. What fun. I'm also not sure why it has taken this long to rank Susan Sarandon's big number "Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me" as one of the sexiest movie scenes ever. The changing opinions of age, maybe?

Speaking of changing opinions of age - when did the Hitler Youth take over the live portion of Rocky Horror? The kids running the show at the NuArt (And they really do run the show - the management seems to have handed everything, including "security," over to a theatre group called "Sins of the Flesh"), seem to have skipped the part where Rocky is a naughty but fun experience, and turned it into a wildly aggressive, 'roided-up and scary S&M scene. And you are NOT WELCOME. I've never been afraid I was going to be punched at Rocky Horror before that night.

When we stumbled on the line at 11:50 PM a very young girl in a leather outfit (what they all wore) cut my question off with a curt GET AGAINST THE WALL. The line had to be carefully herded, we understood. But the "Security" staff - girls in various kinds of slutwear, guys of the black trenchcoat variety - took their jobs to be marching back and forth threatening that they'd throw anyone out that pissed them off.

Inside it was more of the same. Security patrolled the aisles, screaming responses at the movie, most of which fell into a rather aggressive and scary variety. I don't remember any of the Rocky responses involving rape or pedophilia, for instance - although I'm no expert.

Their responses, by the way, were CONSTANT. I'd say if the average 80's or 90's Rocky fan had 200 things to say back to the film, these guys had about 800. Going to Rocky was always more about the floorshow than the movie, but... there's a balance.

And the movie only started after a nearly 45-minute pre-show celebrating... "Sins of the Flesh." Afterwards we felt like we'd been to frat party - and the really ANGRY frat, the one with all the jocks.

You're familiar with the psych study where half the people were labeled "prisoners" and half were labeled "guards?" Sadly, I think it applies here. Is anyone writing a paper on this phenomenon for their sociology PhD? It's like Lord of Flies over at the NuArt on Rocky nights.

The Dead Girl. An example of a Sundance movie - it has that independent feel and an impressive cast earning their indy cred - but this one is more interesting than the usual festival fare. (I have no idea if it was actually a Sundance film, it just seems that way) Less about the mystery of the dead girl than the people connected by her.

Comedians of Comedy. Dane Cook's show "Tourgasm" was more revealing and more slickly produced than this one, but if you are a fan of Patton Oswalt and that crowd, it's a fun watch. As the near opposite of Tourgasm (Oswalt and Brian Posehn's idea is to do a comedy tour in dive bars, not fill giant arenas), I wish the documentary part of this documentary had been better.

Posted by Chris at 9:11 AM

why do you reject comments?

Posted by: mary at August 29, 2007 9:20 PM
August 17, 2007
Bergman: No Dreyer

Here's a cool film website: Cinema Strikes Back. And let's not forget Senses of Cinema. Rotten Tomatoes and JoBlo have not made it into my regular repertoire, though I try to create the habit.

Did I enjoy the recent editorial tiff between Professional Film Harumpher Jonathan Rosenbaum and basically every other film critic, about Ingmar Bergman? Like Roger Ebert and David Bordwell? Of course. I can sympathize with someone that's not into a critical darling (I confess: I'm not at all nuts about Godard) but Jonathan "Star Wars is the Death of American Cinema" Rosenbaum just loves, looooves to be under-served by the consensus, doesn't he. People just don't GET IT, do they, Jonathan?

Why the little blogging? I could blame the appendix again, but let's also lay some blame at the feet of the newest Zelda game. Every few years when those come out I basically disappear until I've finished it.

Posted by Chris at 8:58 AM
August 10, 2007
I blame my appendix for the no blogging

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997, made for TV version w/Michael Caine). I've been in a Nautilus mood lately so have been watching all the "Leagues" versions I can. Netflix even has an online version from 1916. I have never actually seen the whole James Mason version from '54 even though I programmed it in a film series once (They should do a double disk set w/ the James Mason "Journey to the Center of the Earth"), and when I was a kid "Captain Nemo and the Underwater City" from 1969 (Robert Ryan as Nemo) blew my mind. It seems to only be available on 16mm now. Just as well, I'd hate to have that bubble burst.

This latest version is so bad it's almost instructional in how not to make a film. I've never seen a movie where they so thoroughly did not get it - the heart of the story, basic interesting filmmaking - as this one.

The Simpsons. As deeply beloved as this series is, the movie is only a jumbo-sized episode; it does not actually transcend to become a great movie like, say, "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut." For a series with as many decades' worth of great writing as Simpsons, however, it's still a major accomplishment to be able to create a plot at all. I'm still laughing at the few movie liberties they afforded themselves - lines and shots that just wouldn't cut it on TV. Take as many friends as possible to see it and enjoy your audience experience.

The Devil Wears Prada. Slight and useless - if a breeze blows while you're watching this it may just fly away, so be careful with open windows.

Reno 911: Miami. Oh no! It sucked! Skip this and re-rent the first episodes if you're a fan.

Die Hard 4. Hard to believe it's been 12 years since the last one. I saw #3, much much better than this one, the night before my wedding. The action in this one is fantastic and well-choreographed, but unfortunately so exaggerated that Bruce Willis ought to be wearing a cape. About the time he jumped on the tail of the jet fighter I was lifted a bit farther outside the story to contemplate tonal shifts across film franchises.

With Maggie Q and Mary Elizabeth Winstead both along for the ride, I almost had to bring welder's glasses. Why not just get Monica Belucci too, and we'd have to avert our eyes completely.

The bad guys' plot was sort of general and unrealistic. Would you really have to turn off every single computer system in America to steal... whatever it was they were stealing? (I don't remember. I seem to recall the end-goal was Goldfingeresque.) In a day of crumbling infrastructure, it's hard to believe the massive amount of compatibility required to be able to pull off a complete total shut-down from a laptop. Also, the shock that all our systems rely on computers and therefore are vulnerable! is ancient news. "Wargames" did that and did it better. Even the Ancient Greeks worried about their electrical grid and subway system being too reliant on automation, I think.

Posted by Chris at 3:00 PM
August 9, 2007
My alien baby

Wednesday night my stomach was upset. I thought it might be heartburn but, uh, I don't know what heartburn is. Does it feel like an expanding bubble in your chest, and nausea? Or is that just gas? Whatever that is, that's what I had. On Thursday the bubble was bigger, but holding.

In Friday I was legitimately in pain - and by that night I thought I was going to have an alien baby. I guess that's the worst pain I've had, writhing all night in bed trying to find a comfortable position. At 8 AM the next day I asked Ami to take me to the ER.

I'd almost rather die than go to the hospital. I'm not afraid of doctors but when you go into a hospital you seem to go back about fifty years, everything smells like pee, and the staff are all too frenzied or too Post Office sullen to help you. You could show up with a hand gushing blood and they'd put a clipboard of paperwork in it and tell you to wait. And it's all going to end up costing you a fortune unless you can lawyer Blue Cross into honoring their agreement.

Not to mention that you're in germ and disease central, so don't touch anything or breathe the air. Oh, and if it's the ER then you're going to be waiting a long time.

But I was legitimately writhing, so to the ER we went. We happened to be downtown (staying in a hotel there with an out-of-town guest) so we had to find one. The first one we tried was only for a certain plan - so we walked to the next one.

Surprisingly, unlike the three Chicago ERs we visited in nine years, where the wait was never less than three hours, in LA I only waited an hour and a half. All this time, the lady at reception assured me I was "next." That was the nadir. Everything was pink and gray, and the crazy people, the homeless people, the families having major arguments, all represented one place ahead of me in line. A TV was tuned to horrible cartoons AS LOUD AS IT COULD GO. One kind lady looked at me and said "Whatever your ailment is, I hope you feel better."

At 8:30 AM I went back to the ER - and at 5 PM they told me I had appendicitis and it had to come out. Amen to that - if I'd had an Exacto the night before I would have done it myself.

(Where was my new video iPod during this long wait, loaded up as it was with TV and music? Oh, it was back home, safe, sound, unused.)

I was admitted, and luckily got a private room. By now the morphine was flowing on demand so my mood was much better.

In all this time I didn't see a doctor. The nurses told me he was in surgery and I was next. That whole day, I'd been "next." At 12:30 AM they came to take me to the OR.

In the operating room, I eased myself slow-slow-ouch-slowly over to the table from the gurney. I was exhausted, drugged, blind (no contacts, no glasses), and in pain, and at this moment two of the techs put a form on my chest for me to initial. Seems I wasn't having the laproscopic surgery, but the _______ variety. Uh, sure. I still don't know what I signed.

I dropped out somewhere during the endless allergy questions and woke up hurtin' somewhere else. Then comes the long wait in the hospital room. Here I learned some great lessons about health care that I hope to remember if I ever God forbid find myself with an actual serious condition.

The main thing is, nurses should be treated as friendly droids. They excel at taking your vitals and giving you pain medication - but they are not looking after you in anything other than a general sense. The only one really looking after you in a hospital is you. It's probably best to be as nice and as personable as possible and also be as assertive as possible as quickly as possible. If the medicine isn't forthcoming, they have to be buzzed again, and again, and they will be annoyed - but that means they are hearing you. You could literally die of your own politeness in a hospital.

Unfortunately if you are in over a weekend that might mean you have the second-string staff, too. Repeat your name when the come to give you drugs, ask questions again - make sure they know which patient you are.

The secondary function of a nurse is to serve as a buffer between the doctor and you. The doctor does not want to come and see you. I started asking for mine the day after my surgery - at this point other than seeing his head pop up over the gurney for a second I still had not spoken with him - and in response the nurses said "they had just paged him again." The day before the refrain had been "you're next," today it was "we've just paged him."

We asked and asked, and eventually the doctor whisked into the room for a few minutes to see me. They were going to test my white cell count to see if there was any infection, then let me go that night.

Twelve hours later, we were gone: The doctor had whisked by one more time, annoyed at our list of questions (When should we schedule a follow up? What pain prescriptions will I have?), and after 45 minutes we got tired of waiting for the wheelchair that would take me out and made a break for it.

Posted by Chris at 11:12 PM

I'm sorry to hear you went through all that pain. I'm glad you got it taken care of, and hope you're feeling better. Take care.

Posted by: simon at August 10, 2007 8:12 AM

congratulations! i bet it looked just like you.

Posted by: your friend mary at August 17, 2007 12:09 AM