Archive for October, 2011

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Twenty

The upshot of a slow weekend?

I get more work done than usual.

It’s still just a lot of running in place for a few hours (while simultaneously dicking around on Facebook), but I’d like to think I used the fact that I didn’t go anywhere or see anybody to pretty good ends. I probably could have gotten through the day just watching Batman cartoons and bothering people at random, but I probably wouldn’t have been as satisfied with the end-result.

I feel like I used to be a lot better about time management, but I don’t know if that’s really true. I wrote a journal entry, edited five pages of that second novel and wrote the below review. That strikes me as a pretty good output for work. I may even try to knock off a poem, and read some more of a book I’m planning to review for Unlikely Stories. I guess we’ll just see how the evening goes. I’d sure as hell rather be irresponsible, but then I remember that this is how I’m trying to make a living (it’d be awfully nice to sell that book, when the son-of-a-bitch is finally finished), so that keeps the motivation to actually do something my time running pretty high.

Being creatively pleased with what I do is iffy. There are fantastic days, and then there are many, many, many days when I wish I taken up that offer from Satan to sell my soul in exchange for a degree with some kind of theoretically useful potential behind it.

Yeah, I know, the economy is a fiendish orgy of despair, but I still wish sometimes I could go to college.

I’m fortunate. I get to concentrate on artistic gigs, but I don’t always derive any personal pleasure from them, and I rarely feel like I’m doing something useful with my life. When I do it’s magic, and I guess that’s one of the big things that keeps me alive.

Reckless misadventures keep me alive, too, but we already knew that.

You know, I don’t set out to write mournful, depressing introductions. I really don’t.

I’m just saving my knock-knock jokes for the next time I go out.

People love those.
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30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Twenty: Movie With Your Favorite Actress:

Bandits (2001)
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett

There’s nothing really remarkable about the 2001 movie Bandits. It’s immensely enjoyable (Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton together can sustain even the weakest plot), but it’s not a classic by any means. Director Barry Levinson does have a few films under his career that many would consider classics. Diner might be one (I’m inclined to think so). A lot of people hold The Natural in pretty regard (I’ve honestly never seen it). His career is one that’s included films like Tin Men, Good Morning, Vietnam, Rain Man, Toys (I still think that movie is an underappreciated gem), Sleepers (the one movie I used to win every single Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon challenge, ever), Wag the Dog and several others. His last movie, the HBO original You Don’t Know Jack has one of Al Pacino’s best performances in a decade. All in all it’s an interesting, diverse filmography. You have some great films, some dreadful ones and a few that are solid, forgettable ways to deal with a couple of empty hours the easy way.

Bandits is a decent, little movie, and it’s not much more than that.

This isn’t about Barry though. He’s a talented filmmaker, but he wasn’t the reason why I watched this, and he certainly wasn’t the best thing I took away from it.

I don’t even think this is my favorite Cate Blanchett performance. I could probably make a case for any number of brilliant performances she’s given over the years. After all, she’s got a few Oscar nominations going for her, has already picked up one Oscar, and will probably win another, is enough of a star to carry a movie on her own, and never seems to settle into just one type of character.

Even so, I thought about it, and still chose Bandits over anything else.

Hear me out. I think there are two reasons behind this. At least, two reasons that I’m aware of.

This was the first movie I had ever seen her in, and I was struck by her performance more than anything else. It stood out. An actress of lesser talent wouldn’t have done anything significant with the role of kidnap victim-turned-accomplice. On paper it’s not the most exciting part in the world. Blanchett is the kind of actress who can take on any role and make some memorable of it. I figured this out after Bandits, and she’s reminded of this in roles since. She’s done this with difficult characters, weakly written ones and roughly everything else from one end of the character spectrum to the other. There’s little for her to do in Bandits beyond playing off Willis and Thornton. She does that, and it’s quite wonderful just how far she goes and how frequently she upstages them.

That’s not easy. Willis and Thornton are good actors, and they tend to dominate the scene when around. They’re also pretty good at taking some bland material, and making it several times more enjoyable and interesting. Both are fine in this. Willis is a badass, and Thornton is the eccentric with hypochondria and a host of other low-grade mental illnesses. They’ve made a good team before, and this is the most fun of their appearances. They break out of prison together, go on a series of clever (within the context of the movie) bank robberies, pick up Blanchett along the way, fall for her, fight over her and spiral on down towards one last, desperate job. It’s good, and they’re good, but none of it amounts to anything you absolutely must see.

I think Cate Blanchett is the exception to that, and that’s a huge reason why Bandits wins out.

And the other reason?

It’s purely cosmetic, and it’s as simple as that entire sequence where she’s lip-syncing to Bonnie Tyler, dancing and cooking dinner all at the same time. It’s not some great moment of intense, powerful acting (she’s got a lot of those). It’s a few moments in the movie, and it doesn’t mean much to the overall film. It was just a gorgeous woman in a nicely-shot sequence.

I also blame that red hair. After seeing Bandits, it finally made sense to me, why so many think she could double for Tori Amos. If you believe that, then this movie will probably help your argument.

Seriously, I actually rewound the movie, the first time I saw it. I might have been even lonelier than usual at the time, but it still made that kind of impression on me. Sexiness in movies is hard for me to find, so I tend to be mildly, briefly obsessive about the scenes, actresses and even characters, who send my jaw to the floor, and then pour cement in my mouth to keep it there for a while.


Other people are in this movie, apparently.

But gorgeous actresses are pretty common-place. Porn has a ton of them. The overall package for unbelievably sexy actresses isn’t complete, until you throw in the fact that they’re unbelievable at their craft. Cate Blanchett is that entire package. She makes even a relatively minor movie like Bandits better. Very few people can single-handedly enhance a movie like that for me.

Bandits is worth mentioning again, as a movie that is not going to be some kind of life-changing experience. But it’s good enough. A good cast can always go a long way with an average story, and Levinson knows how to wrangle a few surprises and nice touches (Dylan’s “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum” over the opening credits being one of those nice touches) out of things. You’re probably going to feel like you had a pretty good time, but it’s also unlikely, you’ll be demanding Criterion give it a corner spot in their hall of fame. Everything in the movie is just fine, and nothing more involved than that. Except of course, Cate Blanchett. You could do a lot worse than watch this on a rainy afternoon. It probably should have been better with this much talent involved, but we won’t dwell on that.

And that red hair.

My goodness.

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Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Nineteen

Is it completely unfair that I’d like to get some more comments?

I’m not begging. It’s just a thought that’s occurring to me. Part of me is deathly afraid of feedback. That’s natural. No one wants to work forever at something, and then find out everyone hates it. All the acting, writing, performing stuff I do firstly for myself, but I also like to know sometimes that other people are enjoying it.

That’s natural, too.

Has this been the theme of another blog opening already? I don’t remember. I write these in about ten minutes, because I guess I feel like some kind of introduction is always in order, and I’m usually at a loss for anything interesting to say.

I’m finally circling the wagons on some more variety for this thing, but I think it’s gonna wait, until this movie review series is finished. We’re getting there. Just eleven more to go.

What’s in a Friday night? I wish I had plans. I wish that “Tonight, I’m gonna burn this town down” as Springsteen puts it. That’s not in the cards. It’s going to be one of those many lonely nights I seem to be entertaining these days. I’m going to work for a while longer, eat dinner and run movies from now to three or four in the morning. Having no choice but to spin your wheels in the middle of nowhere doesn’t leave you with a lot of options sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done alright for misadventure over the years. The problem is that I’m selfish for that kind of thing. And a quiet Friday night in a quiet room is a quiet, miserable prospect every single time.

I’m not particularly depressed though. No more than usual. I’m just restless, and that continues to become a stronger and stronger feeling.

I’m ready to go, and I’d give anything to be out in the larger world right now. There’s all kinds of trouble I could be getting into.
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30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Nineteen: Movie That Made You Cry The Hardest:

Rocky (1976)
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers

I didn’t actually see the first Rocky until I was about fourteen. In my childhood I had managed to see II, III and IV, but for whatever reason I didn’t get around to seeing the first (and easily the best of them) until I was well into high school. Who knows why. I’m not going out of my way to be stubborn about seeing one movie or another. I’m sure I had plenty of opportunities to watch the first Rocky. I might have even caught it on TV as a little kid. I don’t remember actually watching it until I bought it at a yard sale. The sequels had things like giant, Russian steroid monsters, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. I guess those were just more memorable things to me.

I still dig the sequels, but I’m more apt to watch the first, if I’m in the mood for one of these movies .

I can’t say this movie has ever left me sobbing at the end, but I’ve gotten pretty close sometimes. Getting a strong emotional reaction from me isn’t impossible for a movie to do, but crying tends to be a different matter. I don’t think I’m above it. I just don’t express sadness with tears very often. The ones that do manage to draw that response from me are pretty strange when grouped together. I can’t say there’s a pattern. Sometimes a movie just has the power to kick me in the stomach (in a good way) over and over again. That kick can be pretty severe. So much that crying is just a matter of time. The reason for why a movie can accomplish this seems to vary wildly from film to film.

With Rocky I suppose my reasons for responding to it the way I do are the same as a lot of people’s. There’s a good love story (keeping in mind we’ve established the fact that my idea of love is hopelessly weird, and should not be held as a reasonable example for all humankind). You know it’s there from the moment Stallone meets Talia Shire’s mousy, painfully shy Adrian at the pet store we know he visits every day (under the guise of buying food for his turtles). The love story of Rocky is not some kind of wild ride. It’s not going to have a lot of surprises. Those are not requirements to be unforgettable though. Some of my favorite love stories succeed through simplicity in story and likable, memorable characters. Rocky gives me that story and those characters. Stallone is never going to be in my top-ten actors list (but I do think he’s a lot better than he gets credit for), but his chemistry with Shire is perfect. It sells the romance, and makes it absolutely impossible for me to think of its execution as anything less than perfect.

There are memorable, classic performances from everyone involved. I couldn’t pick a favorite secondary actor in a million years. Carl Weathers is obviously channeling some Ali here (and there was even a mock showdown between Stallone and Ali at the Oscars, when Rocky took home the Best Picture prize), and he’s fantastic at it. Rocky is largely about strong performances and chemistry, going back to the love story between Rocky and Adrian, and I’m glad Weathers was worked into most of the sequels. He plays off Stallone as a definitive rival and later friend. Burt Young and Burgess Meredith are two of my all-time favorite character actors. They played well off just about anyone (and Burt Young still does). In Rocky they’re as memorable to me as Rocky, Adrian or Apollo Creed. Meredith should have won something just for the sheer power of the scene, in which he all but begs Rocky to take him on as a manager.


I have to wonder how many people broke their hands trying this.

The build-up to that big championship fight between Creed and Rocky would never be done so well again. Is it ridiculously corny that Rocky knows his chances of winning are nil, and that all he wants to do is go against Creed from opening bell to last? Yeah, but I’ve never had a problem with it. Maybe, that’s because the fight is loosely based on a Chuck Wepner/Muhammad Ali bout, which saw an unknown Wepner survive an entire fight against Ali. That might be part of it. I also like how much of Rocky’s desire to succeed with such modest, almost pathetic dreams mirrored Stallone’s own life. He was a bit player before Rocky. Everything he hoped to accomplish in his career rode on his determination to play the character, and be an integral part of the movie’s creation (the studio that finally accepted the script, saw it as a possible vehicle for someone like James Caan or Robert Redford). It worked, but the success of Rocky remains one of the most unlikely success stories in film history.

I’m sure the guy who hands out those Golden Raspberry awards is still bemoaning that fact. I think this aspect adds a nice layer to the movie.

All of Rocky culminates in one of the most emotionally satisfying endings I can think of. It gets me every single time, and I love how that never gets old. Again, it’s a pretty simple story, but as Stallone would prove later on it wasn’t so simple that it could easily be duplicated. None of Rocky‘s many sequels would even come close to resonating with me as strongly as that first one did. The last one came close though.

It’s not just the movie itself. Too many scenes stand out, and kick around my head even when I haven’t seen it for ages. These scenes inevitably bring me into my own thoughts and memories, because the kind of movies that draw this kind of emotional response me usually do so by means beyond just the story and characters. All of that in Rocky can still work its charm on me, but it’s always more than just the specifics of the movie itself. There’s always some kind of memory to contend with, or some weird, seemingly random thought that occurs to me every time I watch that particular movie. I won’t go into the memories and thoughts unique to my viewings of Rocky, but I will say they’re potent. Enough that I can be drawn to the film by merits other than the fact that I think Rocky is beautifully done in every way.

What makes Rocky the clear-cut winner in this category? Other movies have that one scene that completely destroys me, breaks down any and defenses and gets those stupid eyes misting up. Some might even have two or three of those scenes. Rocky has several. I don’t want to be such a sucker for easy sentiment, because Rocky is not necessarily the absolute saddest film I’ve ever seen, but it’s pointless to pretend I’m invulnerable. Rocky is my emotional kryptonite, and I’m okay with that. I guess there are worse things to be than an easy target for a certain kind of movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Eighteen

Two days, and another review?

Indeed.

My heart is all aflutter, too.

I’m just eager to barrel through these, so all of us can just move on to what will hopefully be bigger and better things. Movie reviews will always be a part of the proceedings, but I’ve got some other ideas that I want to run through, and I don’t want to try my luck at them until this current movie challenge nonsense is finished.

Nonsense entirely of my own design but nonsense all the same.

This blog will not be the place in which I do something truly dramatic (to me) as an artist and (supposed—don’t ask anyone I ever dated) person, but I think one of the ways in which I can cure my steady blues is by doing something different.

And what’s the old saying? Something about having to start somewhere?

I can’t remember. We’ll just say that’s the one.

The cold weather has set in, and it’s glorious. I’m sure this has been muttered about before, but it makes me dream of travel. I don’t know why. I want to be somewhere else, and I want to have nothing but hours of wandering the weird streets in front of me. I hope that comes along soon. I’m a good deal better-adjusted on the road.

Cold weather does a lot of strange things to my mind and memories. I have all kinds of associations with fall, and even winter, and most of them are quite good. I don’t know if the weather really does have much to do with those associations, but they’re still locked together.

The negative associations are fine, too, because they’re almost always good for a couple of bucks.

I love the cold, but I loathe Christmas.

Weird.
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30 Day Movie Challenge

Day Eighteen: Film That Is Your Guilty Pleasure:

Jackass: The Movie (2002)
Directed by: Jeff Tremaine
Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Chris Pontius

I don’t really believe in the concept of a guilty pleasure movie. The implication of having to feel guilty for liking something is ludicrous to me. I don’t care if the entire world comes together at long last, in a universal spirit of overwhelming brotherhood and declares that Jackass: The Movie is the dumbest thing to have ever come out of the ambitions of mankind. It may well be (I can personally think of worse). I’m still going to like it. I’m still going to like the sequels, too.

The poop jokes don’t do it for me. I just can’t find that stuff funny no matter how hard I try. That’s one of the all-time “great” comedy staples that I haven’t found funny since roughly the first grade. Nothing against those who do. Everyone laughs at something with no particular value or deeper meaning. All of us laugh at something that is not only unlikely to advance the human race anytime soon, but is also probably setting us back a few paces on the whole emotional and spiritual evolution jag. That’s okay. Don’t pay any attention to me if I don’t get it. I expect the same courtesy, and the only thing that bothers me about “stupid humor” is when someone acts like they’re better than that kind of thing.

They’re not. We’re all doomed. At least in that regard.

The poop jokes in Jackass have never made me laugh, and they never will. Some of them will even make me flinch a little.

Steve-O stapling his genitals to something? Nah. That’s not really my bag either.

The physical comedy? The stuff that promises nothing but the potential for a few broken bones?

That’s when I start laughing, and find it difficult to stop, and I’ll argue with anyone that the physical comedy in Jackass is some of the best you’ll find anywhere. There’s a good reason why most of those imitation videos sent in by idiots the world over are by and large desperate and terminally unfunny. There’s an honest-to-God art form to falling down and making that funny. It’s been a staple of comedy that goes back even further the birth of film itself. It’s the old Mel Brooks (at least that’s who the quote has been frequently attributed to over the years) saying that comedy is when somebody falls into a sewer and dies (but the tragedy is that Mel just cut his finger). Anyone can fall off the roof of a house. Johnny Knoxville and his cronies built careers out of inexplicably making it a little more entertaining than the cast of thousands, who inhabit the internet, and shows like Tosh.0.

For a lot of us, there’s just something inherently funny, about a guy slapping a pair of fireworks on some roller skates and trying to make it down a steep hill without crashing.


There’s also something pure and wonderful about anything involving explosions and a giant shopping-cart.

Then there are the pranks. Some of them work (like Knoxville renting a car, and taking it to a demolition derby, or Bam Margera trying to make his mom swear), and some of them don’t. I’ve always had to admire them for trying. A brilliant prank on their part can make me laugh just as hard, as anything in which someone is certain to be shaving a year or two off their lifespan in the name of cheap laughs.

My own life seems to be dictated in a similar fashion, although it’s nowhere near the scale the Jackass boys reach.

It’s easy to understand why a lot of people don’t care for Jackass. I was never a big fan of the show, and I’ve avoided its spin-offs like the plague (Steve-O and Bam strike me as ridiculously obnoxious, and I could never stand to sit through something that focuses on them). The movies however have been a joy. The first one is still my favorite. It’s stupid, banal and completely without a point, but the best moments are as fine examples of physical comedy, as anything you’re going to find these days. It’s a rare thing to see it done well in modern times. I guess the appeal for me is the concept of the stunts themselves. The simplest jokes are a set-up, and a punch-line, in as few words as possible. The best stunts and pranks in anything Jackass have elaborate, clever set-ups that yield terrific punc lines. It’s base comedy, but the great bits carry with them the underlying fact that it’s a lot harder to pull off than it looks.


Although this was probably pretty easy to pull off.

I’ll never be a fanatic for the series, or these people. I like it, but I have to admit that I didn’t feel a great sense of celebrity loss when Ryan Dunn died in a drunk-driving accident this past year. I will say that his passing was unfortunate, and that it will probably be the only time I ever feel sorry for Bam Margera. Bam lost his best friend. I’ve lost friends over the years, but I’ve been lucky enough to never lose someone who is so integral to that small list of the things and people that keep me going. Margera strikes me as a career asshole. Watching him cry in any of the Jackass movies yields a sort-of perverse joy on my part. I did watch the interview with him in the wake of Dunn’s death, and I didn’t get any pleasure out of his visible, deep sadness. He lost that one great friend. They were a great pair in the first movie (and the others) because of that friendship.

The camaraderie between these guys definitely comes through in the films. I only know what I see on the screen, but part of why Jackass: The Movie succeeds is because of the natural chemistry that allows these guys to do whatever they might be doing from one flash of stupidity to the next.

I’ve never been surprised that Spike Jonze is such a fan and willing participant in their insanity. He gets the joke. I don’t think I’m special for getting the joke, too, but I do like that I have something I can enjoy that is completely free of pretension of subtext. It’s simply a bunch of guys making each other’s lives a living hell. That can be pretty damn hysterical when it works. I’m glad I find it so funny. Too much cynicism can become problematic. It’s a relief to know I’m not a complete lost cause, and that relief is often expressed by guiltless, deranged laughter. Jackass: The Movie has helped out achieve that fix on at least a couple of occasions. I’m grateful.

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Seventeen

I’m growing increasingly dissatisfied with how these reviews are turning out, but I’m probably not the best judge of their quality. My mood for the longest has been one determined to take the angst-ridden teenager route, and just assume that everything I come up with is severely lacking in some way.

I guess I only believe that up to a certain point, since I’m obviously still publishing and trying to sell work, but the feeling is there, and nothing I try to do seems to change it.

Boo-hoo.

Life is hard.

People keep telling me I should start delving into more social/political pieces, or to try for something that’s more directly comedic than what I usually do. Those things are tempting. I just keep stalling under the excuse of not knowing where to begin. That might be true, but it’s lousy reasoning nonetheless. I shouldn’t let that kind of thing stop me.

I’d also love to throw on an interview on this thing. My interviews generally wind up at Unlikely Stories, but I’m sure there’s something I could do that wouldn’t necessarily work there.

Anything is possible. Unfortunately, everything also feels like it’s about a million miles away from my grip. All I can do is keep moving along regardless. There isn’t a whole lot else I can do. The creative things I try to do can also be looked at as how I lead the rest of my life. Like everything else, I can only try to continue moving forward, continue doing all that I can. Imagine that somewhere along the line, other things will fall into place, and I’ll finally cheer up a little.

What does any of this have to do with movies?

Search me.

I don’t ramble very much about myself (at least, not in print), and this seems like as a good a place as any to do it.
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30 Day Movie Challenge:

Day Seventeen: Least Favorite Book Adaptation

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Directed by Andrew Adamson
Starring: William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes

Religion just wasn’t a big deal where I grew up in British Columbia, Canada. That’s at least how I remember it. There were churches, people went to them if they wanted, and that largely seemed to be the end of it. I didn’t encounter people screaming about me about their faith (or lack thereof) until I moved to the States in 1998.

I only mention this, because I was roughly five or six when I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I guess I wasn’t a very bright Kindergartner, because the religious allegories of C.S. Lewis’ long-standing classic were completely lost on me until a few years later. I just thought it was a great story. I quickly gobbled up the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia series, and then moved on to other Lewis works (like The Screwtape Letters), and even the live-action BBC adaptations (which have not held up especially well for me).

Eventually, I took on more sophisticated books, but I never forgot how much those books meant to me. A monstrous Hollywood adaption just made sense. All the elements for a great fantasy epic were right there. All it needed to rival Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings was someone to piece those elements together. It’s not a complicated task. The right vision for bringing something like Narnia to life coupled with a great cast would be able to cover things just fine. I was excited by the trailers I saw for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I wasn’t expecting the greatest movie of all time, but what I saw gave me every reason to believe I would at least be entertained.

This probably isn’t the Goat Boy Bill Hicks was talking about.

Maybe I had weirdly high expectations of how much I expected from the concept of entertaining. I don’t know.  I know I was (and still am) baffled by the positive reception this got from a large number of critics and fans. It wasn’t that I went out of my way to dislike The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. When it comes to movies I’m not a masochist, and I’m not looking for excuses to complain. There’s better ways to spend almost two and half hours of my life, than to watch a movie I want to hate before the opening credits have even appeared.

I realize a lot of people like this movie, and I desperately wanted to like it, too. The impact the books had on the literary aspect of my childhood was substantial. From Narnia I moved on to countless other fantasy books and authors. I read them more than once and probably liked that BBC adaptation more than it deserved. Those elements seemed like they had a great chance of coming together. The cast seemed fine (especially Tilda Swinton), and they were throwing a monstrous budget behind it. Disney wanted to cash in on the Harry Potter/LOTR market, and I couldn’t blame them. They had the perfect property on their hands. The source material has plenty going for it to create a great adventure epic. What’s even better is that the Narnia books aren’t particularly deep even when you take all the allegory into account (and it doesn’t really matter if you do—You don’t really have to be an expert on Christianity to enjoy Narnia). They’re well-told, earnest but pretty straightforward fantasy stories, and I didn’t see how a film adaptation could completely screw that up.

It’s true, there are some stunning visual sequences, battles and backdrops. It’s also true that Swinton tears the house down, with the best performance in the whole thing (Liam Neeson as Aslan is also pretty damn cool). It just wasn’t enough for me. Compared to LOTR or Harry Potter (and in my mind comparisons between all these films are inevitable), this just struck me as very flat, and devoid of the scope and personality that allowed LOTR and Harry Potter (well except for the first two films maybe) to be more than just fantastic light shows. The source material being straightforward is no excuse for a movie filled with unappealing actors, and a story that’s overlong and poorly told.

There is indeed a lion though. The movie certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front.

I can probably blame the child actors for that. God knows why, but I truly couldn’t stand any of them. Perhaps I’m just not very tolerant of child actors in general. The list of ones I can put up with for more than eight seconds is pretty thin. The kids of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are nowhere near that list. I found them to be smarmy, obnoxious little twits, who spend the entire movie wandering around, getting into trouble and accomplishing anything useful mostly by accident. Georgie Henley wore on my nerves me more than any of them. Something about her made me want to leave her at a grocery store. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love to be engaged by her precociousness, ageless wisdom and cheery pluck. I’m not one of those people.

The other kids bug me, too (as does much of the cast), but there’s something about that particular little scamp that makes me glad I don’t know any English children off the top of my head. It’s probably not fair to condemn an entire country of children over a movie, but the kids of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were annoying enough to make me want to.

The running time is also ridiculous. Much of consists largely of director Andrew Adamson assuming I’ll be so impressed with the visuals that I won’t notice that most of the time, nothing is really happening. And when something does happen I don’t really care, because everything is so lifeless, so by-the-numbers that I’m really just waiting for Tilda Swinton to say something sinister, Liam Neeson to say something noble or for an extraordinary battle scene to break out. Even those things lose their appeal by the end. All I felt at the end was a completely useless sense of accomplishment. I’ve never walked out on a movie in my life, and I don’t intent to start. Everything I begin will be finished to the bitter, half-awake end.

What does that actually achieve? Probably nothing.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe worked for a lot of people, and I wouldn’t dream of faulting anyone who did like it. I just walked away feeling as though the parts didn’t create the sum of a good movie. Certain aspects of the film are beautifully realized, but for me a great deal of it wasn’t. Most likely there’s a book adaptation I dislike even more, but this one is probably the most disappointing. The books are easy to get into, but that doesn’t mean the movie has to be a dull, completely hollow experience. I left this first film in the series feeling as though I had just seen the same kind of fantasy film, everyone is seemingly trying to do these days. It didn’t feel like the Narnia from my childhood. It was just another empty blockbuster.

Two Poems

Day seventeen should be making the scene next week. For now let’s see what to make of the two most recent poems I’ve written.

Most of my creative output these days is poetry, fiction and reviews. I’d like to break from those at some point soon, and get into a new script, or even something I’ve never done before (like writing for a webcomic), but I guess those things will have to wait.

Until?

I don’t. Until I feel comfortable with where I stand with the things I’m working on now. I really don’t want to take on any big projects until the third draft of that second novel is finally finished. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t say no, if something were to come along. I’m just trying not to take on too much at once. I want to be ridiculously productive, but there’s always a point where the work will begin to suffer. Who knows if I’m there already. I don’t think I am, but you never know.

These are weird poems that came out of weird, sad dreams and memories. I’ve been having a lot of those lately. I hate anything that leaves me with an inexplicable notion of sorrow. Depression is fine, but I think sorrow is a little dramatic, and not something I’m even remotely entitled to.

Still, I wake up with the feeling, and it digs at me for the rest of the day. Thank-God, it doesn’t  happen often.

I think these turned out pretty well. I’d like to try submitting them, but I suppose this is a good place to let them wander around for a bit. See if they run into anyone familiar.

They certainly don’t want to hang around a sad bastard like me anymore.

Enjoy.

**********
Real Deviant-Like
By Gabriel Ricard

Fear is the great motivator,
and it’s possible I’ve revealed
too much of what scares me
three-hundred-and-sixty-four days out of the year.

I still visit friends,
and I act like there really are flowers in my right hand,
when I visit a woman who knows how dangerous
I can be when the stress becomes unmanageable.

It’s the first day,
of knowing yesterday
was the first day of the rest of my life.

I’m still mostly fantastic for fourteen shows an hour.
I’m still sorry I was too lazy to ride a bicycle,
all the way to the state she was playing house in.

All the bad things I’ve done
remain safe and sound. They used to be in a film vault,
in the stable parts of California but were moved,
and have since been traveling even more I do.

Maybe, I’m just an egomaniac,
but I suspect hundreds of people
are keeping that reel updated
and timely to the point where it’s giddy with insight.

Or it’s just one bitter heart with personality to spare.

Something tells me,
that’s not it. I’ve wronged a subway car
worth of people in the last decade alone.

I know all of this. It makes up the bones
that have their own games, their own language,
and their own way of mouthing off to God
with a mouthful of dirt.

It’s a mighty big closet to keep them in.
The skeletons dance, like someone
set out to recreate a public domain cartoon
from 1928, but fell in and out of love
before they finished and retired,
to watch the underworld
from their front porch.

I think the previous owner
kissed a couple dangerous girls in there once.

Lots of room to make a bad decision.
You wouldn’t even have to pound
the old hotspots. So desolate the wind left them behind
and went looking for something else to whip into shape.

I still do that,
but I don’t keep the souvenirs.
I avoid getting close to new bodies whenever possible.

They wouldn’t love me in the long run.

I know all of this. Every last dreadful gesture,
and every t-shirt that smells like a claustrophobic barroom,
but I’m still afraid of almost everything.

There’s no motivation from that anymore.
No burn marks under my feet. Not no more.

Now,
I just accumulate troubling amounts
of wealth for the distressing times ahead of me.

**********
Echoes from Wild Horses
By Gabriel Ricard

Throw us under the bus heading into town.
Or just throw us over the last necessary telephone wire,
let the chemically imbalanced ballerinas tap
ridiculous sorrow on the back of our heads,
and then leave what’s left of us for the politically-correct crows.

It’s not a murder anymore.
It’s just a gathering of talented public servants,
who just so happen to know which sleeve our hearts are hiding under.

Widows have to be content to be rich in spirit.
The best homes in the best neighborhoods
are still the ones that stand alone,
and don’t need a skyscraper resting comfortably on top
catching the last of Peter Pan’s optimistic fan club.

No one ever goes inside,
but you can hear arguments,
and shopping carts, debating TV finales with stray cats
on a night where everyone’s outside
drinking spiked NyQuil,
and not speaking to each other.

There’s plenty of money around to buy these places.
Fix up the interior. Paint the walls something,
that won’t bleed all the way outside
into the grass. But the buyers are all temporary millionaires,
looking to take revenge on their childhood homes,
and ruin a couple of classic cars.

Some people just can’t let go.
Others develop real mean complexes,
over how easily that came to them in their youth.

Even the Atheists have been touched in the head
by a god of some kind.

Old men gamble on the echoes
of the wild horses trying to outrun the August blues.

Young men try to stop cabs
with nothing but great expectations and loud voices.

Every one of them remembers
the woman who sang to them on a payphone,
and told them everything was finally ready
to forgive itself.

They remember a little too often,
laugh a little too hard,
stay out a little too late,
cough up everything they breathed in,
and wind up too scared to visit a sadistic country doctor
in timeless carnival dress.

No one ever dies that way.
That’s the worst part.

Paranoid workaholics are beginning to wonder
if anyone ever really dies anymore.

Like everything else,
it seems to be taking forever,
and nothing we do
is half as much fun as it used to be
because of that.

Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Sixteen

I can’t believe I went a little over a week without updating. I’m pretty sure the universe continued to march along (I haven’t checked to make sure), but lengthy periods between updates is inexcusable to me. The whole point of this blog was to update it as frequently as possible. Doing so will not suddenly drop fame and fortune into my life (although I continue to dream), but I still have it worked out in my head that this blog is still a means of promoting whatever I’m up to, or whatever I want to show people.

My discipline with doing that has been lackluster. You could say that for my entire creative output in most of 2011. My heart just hasn’t been anywhere the urgency to work. I keep at creative endeavors, because it’s the one of the only things that keeps me going. Running on fumes is better than having nothing to keep you going at all. I’ll take whatever enthusiasm I can get, and I’ll almost always hope more will come along soon. Take that away, and it’s more self-loathing and despair than even I’m comfortable with.

A little of those things can be fine, but too much will reveal itself as just that almost instantly, and it can be almost impossible to pull yourself out of that particular hole.

I haven’t done another movie challenge in almost a month. Shame on me. I like writing about movies, and I want to keep writing about movies. This blog needs more than movies, fiction and poetry, but those will always be the bulk of the content here. I’m eager to finish out this challenge business (screw you, OCD), and get on to writing about films under a different theme (or no theme at all).

And then my thoughts go back over to wanting to write something more substantial. The world out there is depressing me even more than usual (and I suppose it’s a blessing that I’m in a position of being able to look at the world in the way I do), and I keep stopping myself from saying anything about it. That’s just pure fear talking. I refuse to leave my creative comfort zones, and one of the reasons behind this blog is to do just that.

I also need to get back into submitting work. That’s completely fallen by the wayside lately. Ditto for that third draft of my second shot at a novel. These are at least a couple of the things that could actually mean something to my writing in the long run. I have to kick my ass a little more about keeping up with them.

I’m terminally dissatisfied with the direction I’ve allowed my life to take. Contrary to my constant bad mood there are actually things I can do to change that. Bad luck and bad decisions be dammed.

I’ll shut up now, and refer you to the actual review.

**********
30 Day Movie Challenge:

Day Sixteen: Favorite Book Adaptation

The Godfather (1972)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan

I certainly didn’t know The Godfather films were a huge deal at age five. I just knew my parents (especially my mom) loved them. I saw references to certain scenes and characters (especially The Simpsons, which could quite possibly retell the entire first film from their jokes and references) all over the place. That didn’t mean anything to me either. The entire trilogy is just another one of those things that’s been hovering around my consciousness. One day, somewhere in my childhood they just became movies I had seen on countless occasions. I want to say I was five or six when I saw the first film. That has no choice but to be as good a guess as any.

It was definitely at a point where I was too young to fully understand it. I just liked the scope, violence and intensity of everything that went with it. This was true of the first film, slightly less true of the second film and not particularly true of the third chapter (although I’ve grown to appreciate it more, as I’ve gotten older).

I suppose the fact that I just remember The Godfather being part of my consciousness of movies and popular culture is a commentary on the film itself. The Godfather recently topped a list of movies that people have never seen, but claim to. I don’t really get why someone would lie about seeing a movie. Give up a couple nights of Dancing with the Stars, and just watch the damn thing. It occurred to me though that some people may really think, they’ve seen the movie before. Or have just seen, heard and read so much about it that it’s the same thing as having seen it.

It’s not. Finding the time for a movie this long (almost three hours) might not be easy, but it’s worth trying. I’m not so in love with the first Godfather that I can’t imagine someone not liking it. I just think it’s one of those films that everyone should see at least. Feel free to have whatever opinion you want to have at the end of it.

It’s hard to believe Paramount (which was going under at the time) wanted to set Mario Puzo’s 1969 hit novel in the present. There might still have been a good movie in there, but like anything as perfect in my mind as The Godfather is, I’d rather not imagine even one layer of this film being different. A story like this just couldn’t exist in the 1970’s. It wouldn’t even be close to being the same. At least a piece of what I love about The Godfather is its time and place. The history and culture described and created by Coppola and Puzo is part of the richness of the story and characters. Change that, and you have something else. It could wind up being better, but what’s the point in even wondering about it? I’m just glad the movie turned out as it did. I wouldn’t change a single thing.

This was an easy pick for favorite book adaptation. The secret was to not run through the list of possible candidates for all eternity. Because I probably could. There are hundreds of films I love taken from literary works. Broad categories like this one bring out the worst in my indecisiveness. Choice after choice would have kept popping into my head. The absurd mental battle royal would have never seen an end. Yet another instance where it was best to go with the first choice.

Paramount almost shut the movie down at one point. The shooting of this scene is supposedly what saved the film.
There’s not a lot I can say about this movie. Almost everyone is at least aware of it, and has an opinion whether or not they’ve actually seen the movie. I really wish I could remember, the first time I saw The Godfather. Being aware of the exact date doesn’t make much difference. It’s just been such a part of my life, the way all my favorite films are, for so long that it’d be nice to remember the specifics of seeing it the first time. A few (but certainly not all) of my best memories somehow involve the first time I saw a particular important movie. Recalling The Godfather isn’t a big deal, but I wouldn’t turn down having the whole image come back to me in a flash. Who knows what other memories would accompany it?

Dissecting this movie, going through the details of the Corleone family business and personal struggles strikes me as a monstrous waste of time. It’s one of those rare occasions, when I’m pretty sure I have nothing substantial to offer on the movie itself. All I can do is try to break down, why I love it so much. A thousand and one writers, documentarians, bloggers and more (including the overwhelming wealth of special features available on the DVD and Blu-ray) have broken the movie down in just as many ways. I can talk about the impact The Godfather has had on me, but anything further would just leave me with the notion that I’m just repeating what a bunch of other people said.

I try to avoid doing that as much as possible.

I also know it’s impossible to go more than a few months without watching it. I also know that if I happen to walk by a TV playing it, I’m going to stop, and sit down until it’s over. Some movies just get at you like that. They’re compelling, and astonishing no matter how many times you’ve seen them. I think it’s because my opinions on it changes constantly. I always love the movie, but with each viewing, it’s entirely possible that my opinion of a character or event will change from what it might have been the last time. I love that. Very, very few movies engage me on that level.

The character and eventual fate of Sonny Corleone (the all-time great performance by James Caan) is a good example. I like the character less and less. My sympathy doesn’t extend very far to his circumstances. I get that he’s supposed to be the cocky, hotheaded one, but that sometimes reaches irritating lengths with me. I like Diane Keaton for some weird reason, but her character, Kay bugs me a little more every time I see her. She seems completely incapable of a rational decision. She simply moves with whatever fate has planned for her, and then acts surprised when things take a less-than-favorable turn.

Those opinions have evolved over the years. Either or both of them could change entirely, the next time I watch it.

I also want to say that Duvall is probably my favorite actor in a movie in which everyone is brilliant. I’ll also say that my favorite scene is the hospital scene. The tension in that scene is familiar, but it’s the best kind of familiar there is with film.

Not a shred of dysfunction amongst them. Nope.

That’s usually how it works when you talk to someone about this movie. You discuss your favorite character, your favorite scene, and then you inevitably argue about the interpretation of one thing or another. I’m a geek, and that kind of thing can still appeal to me. Even if you don’t like the film (and I could count on one hand the number of people I’ve met who haven’t) it’s impossible not to at least appreciate something that’s capable of drawing that kind of reaction from people. It can also be fun to banter with someone who didn’t care for it. The best conversations I have with people about movies will always help to remind me, why I love movies in the first place.

My favorite thing to do involving The Godfather these days is to watch it with someone else. Like the movie itself, their reactions never get old.