Thursday, March 27, 2008

For Those of You Keeping Count...

...Chapter 27 is the fourth film this year to receive a grade of F from The AV Club.

Grim Reaper Update

Last week, I noticed that people who were involved in some of my favorite movies were dying at an alarming rate. That seems to have stopped for the time being. Judgment at Nuremberg, meanwhile, is not quite one of my favorite films; like most of the Stanley Kramer movies I've seen, it's well-done but fairly stagy and heavy on the speechifying, plus it's hard to get that taste of medicine out of your mouth once it's over. Still, I should mention that, in an odd coincidence, the film's screenwriter, Abby Mann, and one of its actors, Richard Widmark, died within a day of each other. I'm shamefully ignorant of the careers of these two men, but considering Mr. Widmark was best known as a noir heavy, I fully intend to get familiar with his filmography as soon as possible. In any case, I certainly hope that this is not the start of a trend; Shatner was in that movie, after all.

While I'm on the subject of obituaries, I should mention the death of Herb Peterson, inventor of the Egg McMuffin. This is as good a time as any to link to Wikipedia's hilariously deadpan overview of McDonaldland characters.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Long Goodbye

Considering this blog's name, I don't really write about giraffes all that much. Therefore, I feel a sad obligation to mention the recent death of Puzzles, a 27-year-old giraffe who resided at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Justice's New Video is Something I Never Thought I'd See

80's nostalgia that's well-done, clever, and doesn't suck! Be sure to watch all the way to the end for the best part.

Via Drawn; see here for some source material.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bad Week

So, yeah, last week was a pretty crappy one in the dead-famous-people department. First, director Anthony Minghella passed away at the age of 54. Minghella directed one of my favorite movies, The Talented Mr. Ripley. It's a bit overlong, but exceptionally well-cast and well-acted. I first saw it about a week before I left for college, and it made me want to totally reinvent myself when I moved into my dorm (without the murder, though).

The next day, science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke passed away in Sri Lanka. Among other things, Clarke wrote the short story "The Sentinel," which was adapted by Stanley Kubrick as 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is one of my favorite movies. (Incidentally, since I'm not sure when I'll have another excuse to link to it, do check out Michael Berube's two-part essay on 2001, which is among the more useful things I've read on the film.)

To close out this particular trilogy, news came out the next day that Paul Scofield had died. Scofield won an Oscar for his role in A Man for All Seasons, and he also appeared in Quiz Show, which is (all together now!) one of my favorite movies.

Hopefully next week will be a little less mournful. But just in case, I'd like to urge Brian Cox, Seymour Cassell and Bill Murray to be extra careful in the near future.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Equinox!

So yesterday was the first day of spring, which is really only a big deal if you're a Druid, an egg-balancing enthusiast, or you felt like braving the January-like temperatures for a free water ice. However, it was also the birthday of Rev. Fred McFeely Rogers, a day of much greater importance. I was planning to mark the day by wearing a cardigan, but I don't own such an item of clothing, and it's really hard to find one that doesn't scream "I'm a Giant Douche."

Anyways, I was doing some research into Mr. Rogers, and it turns out that he testified in the case of Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., which went to the Supreme Court and established the legality of taping TV shows for private use.

So to review: Fred Rogers was an advocate for fair use who opposed a litigious movie studio, he was a musician and songwriter who composed all of the music for his show, he rocked a cardigan sweater, and he had a TV hanging on his wall. If Mr. Rogers had been born 50 years later, he'd be the coolest guy you know.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Subconscious Is a Total Nerd

I went to bed the other night thinking I was a fairly cool guy. Then I fell asleep and had I dream that I had written a blog post (Strike One) in which I made a reference to the number of casualties at the first battle of Bull Run (or maybe it was Antietam). This provoked a series of comments telling me that I was unbelievably ignorant and had gotten my facts wrong, so I went to Wikipedia (Strike Two) to check my information. This series of events was apparently engrossing enough that I overslept and was late for work.

Of course, then I went to Wikipedia and read up on the two Civil War battles in question and am now writing a blog post about the first blog post which only existed in my imagination (Strike Three).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Perils of Popularity

Oh boy! The Colbert Report is coming to Philadelphia in April! Who wants to go?

Well, that's too bad, since it seems that all of the tickets were snatched up between his announcement and the second commercial break. Boo.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Humorous Pictures

I spent Saturday in the city the same day as the Erin Express, an experience which could best be described as a frat party which became irradiated and grew into a green blob that threatened to engulf the city until Steve McQueen showed up with a fire extinguisher. Not surprisingly, the event was about as authentically Irish as a bowl of Lucky Charms, so here are a few videos spotlighting true Celtic spirit:

In loving memory of Shane MacGowan's teeth.

Have you seen this movie yet? If not, why not? Seriously.

One of the most accurate filmic depictions of Leprechauns; according to Irish folklore, they are really terrible emcees.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What I've Seen: Michael Clayton and a Couple of Trailers

Among the many benefits of watching films on DVD is the ability to instantaneously cue up a specific scene. These days, when I reach the end of a movie that I enjoyed, there are usually a couple of scenes that impressed me so much that I want to revisit them as soon as the credits finish rolling. If the scenes really impressed me, though, I'll stop mid-movie and rewatch them right away.

Michael Clayton has two of those scenes. The first of those is a pivotal, single-take shot that, for reasons of spoiler-avoidance, I should probably not say any more about. The second one is much subtler moment which occurs in an early scene, but which I didn't notice until the scene was reprised later (the movie has one of those scripts that starts off near the end, then flashes back a few days). George Clooney's titular character, a high-priced legal "fixer" (or, as he calls it, a "janitor") is being berated by one of his firm's clients, a man who has just committed a hit-and-run. In the midst of the client's tirade, Clooney's face twitches almost imperceptibly. It's a tiny thing that speaks volumes about the compromises the character has made in the film up to that point and the many things he has lost. I know almost nothing about acting; is it possible for someone to twitch like that on cue? Or was it an involuntary tic that just happened to be caught on film?

It's been pointed out many times before that George Clooney is a magnetic leading man, a modern-day Cary Grant (and, if this article by Time magazine's resident smart-ass Joel Klein is to be believed, one of the most charming and polite people on the planet). As if to illustrate his ability to command the screen, you only need to look at the final two scenes of Michael Clayton. The next-to-last scene is a climactic verbal showdown with the film's villain. It's fairly contrived, and in a lesser movie the music would swell underneath it to tell the audience how to feel, but underneath Clooney's performance it would be redundant. The scene that follows is the polar opposite: a long, static shot of Clooney in the back of a cab, saying absolutely nothing as the credits roll. The fact that he can hold your attention even without any dialogue speaks volumes about his talent.


I'm used to hearing Harry Kalas's voice in a lot of places: Phillies games, NFL films, soup commercials, Puppy Bowls, etc. Movie ads, however, are a new one. But here he is narrating the TV spots for George Clooney's (there he is again!) new movie Leatherheads.

I doubt it will happen, but I'd love to hear Harry the K get some work doing the trailers for summer blockbusters and Oscar-bait prestige pictures. Hearing about a world where hope is against the law or a renegade cop who has to make his own rules would be much more pleasant coming from that friendly voice.


A couple of things I respect about Pixar, after seeing the trailer for Wall-E:
  1. For a while, every time a Pixar movie was released, the story was how they had animated some object that had previously been very difficult to render convincingly, like fur or water. Apparently now they've managed to perfect everything and are challenging themselves on the storytelling aspect. A movie in which the title character doesn't talk, but rather whistles and beeps like R2-D2? Sure!
  2. It would have been easy to cram these trailers with current pop hits and cliched "classic" songs. Instead, they used music from The Great Escape and, in an earlier teaser, Brazil. I'm sure that marketing experts would prefer more typical musical selections, but instead they used pieces with actual thematic relevance. Imagine!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Cover the Facebook

The recent revelations about New York governor Eliot Spitzer and his links to a prostitution ring has raised more than a few questions. What on earth was he thinking? Didn't he realize how easy it would be for him to get caught? How do you justify paying over $4000 for a call girl? How did he convince his wife to stand next to him during his big announcement?

Ah, but the New York Times is tackling the real question: was that hooker hot? I won't spoil the answer for you.

The article is notable for how little information it contains: it identifies the woman formerly known only as "Kristen" (her real name is Ashley Alexandra Dupre) and gives a few biographical details, but also points out that in her brief court appearance and brief phone interview, "she told the tiniest tidbits of her story."

For me, the most interesting thing about the article is the way it so heavily relies on Ms. Dupre's MySpace page as a source. The webpage receives credit for all of the photos that accompany the article, and typically mundane details like favorite musicians and top friends are suddenly deemed noteworthy. She is an aspiring singer, and the paper of record takes the opportunity to go all Pitchfork on the one track streaming on the site: it's "a hip-hop-inflected rhythm-and-blues tune" but the singer "uses some dated slang, calling someone her 'boo'."

Just like your mother used to tell you to always wear clean underwear when you leave the house, you should always make sure your social network pages are in good order; you never know when you'll be swept up in a sex scandal and a major media outlet will rely on that information to craft your life story.

*I had originally written a title with a reference to Deep Throat (the Watergate source, not the other thing). But who needs that kind of double entendre?

Too Much Time: I Haz It

Via kottke: an absurdly detailed chart of TV shows that, by virtue of cast crossovers and other references, must therefore exist only in the mind of the autistic kid who imagined St. Elsewhere. You may be distressed to learn that Star Trek is not, in fact, real.

Monday, March 10, 2008

All I Wanna Do Is Bang Bang Bang Bang

I was listening to The Essential Clash this weekend for the first time in ages, and when I heard the opening bars of "Straight to Hell," I realized that I'd never be able to listen to it again without wanting to hear "Paper Planes" immediately afterwards. That M.I.A. can sure pick some good samples.

M.I.A.'s coolness is contagious, too. When I was watching the trailer for Pineapple Express, I was mostly indifferent until "Paper Planes" came on the soundtrack and I suddenly decided that this would be the awesomest movie ever.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Speaking of Daffy...

Seeing as the usual lazy-pundit trope is to compare presidential candidates to high school stereotypes, I suppose I should be thankful for the slight change of pace in a piece comparing the presidential candidates to Looney Tunes characters.

The thesis seems to be that voters tend to prefer candidates who appear relaxed and charming (like Bugs Bunny) to those who strike them as high-strung and aggressive (like Daffy Duck). What insight!

Adventures in Music Licensing

That sure is a soothing melody playing beneath the endless list of warnings in this Celebrex ad, isn't it?

It sounds a bit familiar, though...

Ah! There we go. Sounds like they changed it just enough to avoid sending the guys from Air any money.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Museums: The Thinking Person's Studio 54

A few weeks ago, Kanye West played a surprise gig at New York's Museum of Natural History.

Now a museum in Russia has gone one better and hosted an orgy.

Great Moments in Press Criticism

As of around 10:30 this morning, the Wikipedia article for the Philadelphia Inquirer began with these little-known facts:

"The Philadelphia Inquirer is a morning piece of crap that serves the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area of the United States. The newspaper was founded by Poooooppppy and John Norvell in June 1829 as the Pennsylvania Inquirer and is the third penis surviving daily newspaper in the United States."

Mad Libs: still as nonsensical as they were when I was ten.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

As Goes Antarctica, So Goes the Nation

A round-up of primary election results among voters in other countries.

Weekend You-Tubery: No Theme Edition

  • I've developed a weird habit lately: when I'm driving in my car, I start whistling improvised solos to the songs on the radio. They're pretty terrible; these sorts of things are best left to the professionals:

  • It may seem that MTV exists as an outlet for gimmicky "unscripted" dating shows and reruns of America's Next Top Model, but they did somehow find room on their schedule for the hilarious Human Giant. The first season will be released on DVD this Tuesday, and the second season premiere is available as a free download on Amazon. I implore you to get caught up. Personally, I can't get enough of the little kid from "Shutterbugs:"

  • Lastly, I made the mistake of tuning into the so-bad-it's-just-bad Quarterlife last week (apparently, I was one of the few people who demonstrated such poor judgment), and ever since I've had this song stuck in my head:

Saturday, March 1, 2008

As Long as They Don't Play That "Yes We Can" Crap

As a Democrat, I'd like to see this primary season to end as soon as possible so that we can stop all of this intra-party squabbling and start looking at the general election. On the other hand, if it drags out until Pennsylvania, I might get to go to a free Arcade Fire concert.