Let's watch a lot of movies this summer! Let's care what I have to say about them!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I quit.

Ach, I've been busy traveling or working and just don't feel like blogging anymore. I guess I just have no stamina for the blogging world. Maybe when I grow older?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Twists 'n turns 'n terrorists

I kinda fell off the bloggin' pony there for a bit since I've been wrapped up in season 4 of "24". In fact, I haven't really been doing much of anything except doing yardwork, going to work, coming home and watching a marathon of "24" episodes, all while totally forgetting the internet and the outside world exist. That's a nice and simple life with a daily dose of tension and melodrama and the occasional stolen nuclear warhead.

Why is this show so addictive? Why does my very conservative and aged grandpa also watch it religiously? Some parts are so hokey I can't help laughing out loud, but all in all, the writing is pretty great and it's a sweet ride. Jack Bauer is the All-American Hero. You can tell by the sky behind him. Because of this, nobody minds a bit that he never says "goodbye" at the end of his phone conversations. Or that CTU is entirely lit by 25-watt light bulbs and kept to a cool 68 degrees.

A show is pretty great if only one of the episodes from the whole season makes you yawn, i.e. the "7 PM-8 PM" episode. I've found that in all of the seasons of "24" I've watched, I tend to get a bit bored midway through the season when the first huge crisis is foiled and we're dawdling around waiting for the next big turn of events, aka the Terrorists' Contingency Plan That No One Expected. But still, I'm a fan of Jack & the gang and love this golden age where a TV series feels like one enormous entertaining movie. I think I'll live a little life before diving into season 5, though.

Entertainment score: 9.5
Flim score: 8

Quite the dandy

After much hype and ado, I finally rented "Capote". I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Philip Seymour Hoffman and was excited he won the Oscar for this role, but a movie like this is nice to see in the La-Z-Boy at home instead of the theater. Hooray for DVD extras and a bowl of ice cream.

And hooray for you, makers of this film. There's a fine line in flims between artistic and pretentious, emotional and believable acting and annoying overacting and they managed to keep to the good side. Boffo to Hoffman for not only doing an incredible job of portraying Truman Capote and his mannerisms but having to act an entire flim in that voice. That takes talent. I want to read "Breakfast at Tiffany's".

Entertainment score: 8
Flim score: 9

Randy in the Midwest

In honor of Garison Keillor and Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion flim release, I decided to it was finally time to read this memoir I'd bought a few years back. I like Garrison Keillor's voice and call me an old man, but I like to listen to "A Prairie Home Companion" some Saturdays, especially if it's raining. It's a whimsical days-gone-by thing and reminds me of baking pies up in Alaska where our only form of entertainment was the one NPR station we could get.

So "Lake Wobegon Summer 1956" starts exactly in that same vein: small town boy coming of age as the sun is setting and the crickets sing and lawn sprinklers whoosh. Keillor's stories are entertaining but you'd never guess he pretty much had sex and dirty novels constantly on his teen mind. It gets old to read of his teenage fantasies and I found myself skimming through a lot of the sections to get back to the stories of the the town residents. All in all it was a fun read but maybe I'll stick to the censored and smooth voice of Keillor on the radio.

Entertainment score: 6
Literary score: 7.5

Friday, June 02, 2006

"Here lies little Toby"

Have you seen that FedEx truck with the puppy logo on it? Cute as buttons. The puppy is bringing its master a package! But have you ever seen a dog carrying a FedEx package with a puppy logo on it? Double whammy cute! I want a dog to do that for me.

I've never had a dog and probably never will. But if I ever had beagle puppies and they died, I'd want to bury them in a pet cemetery with a funeral service. And that's what this 1978 documentary is about: the lengths some people go to give their beloved pet a final resting place and the people involved in this business. The flim mainly centers around various pet cemetery folk around the Bay Area, some who have been successful and some who have not. It's sad and touching to see the opening interviews with a fellow who dreamed of building a Pet Cemetery of Paradise on a plot of land but lost everything when the land deal and details went sour. His nemesis is the owner of the rendering plant down the road who is so amazingly funny to watch that even Fred Willard couldn't have justly portrayed him.

In the middle of the movie there's an amazing segment of an old woman who pretty much rambles on about her deadbeat son before saying she hasn't really seen the kitties around for some time. And....cut to the next segment about a family-run pet cemetery, complete with its own chapel, a plot designated as Kitty Kurve, and some sibling rivalry. The father is proud of his business but is unsure whether to pass it on to his eldest son (an ambitious but failed insurance salesman from Salt Lake) or his reclusive and soft-spoken younger son (who had his heart broken once in Chico and lives in a small house up by the cemetery). Incidentally, some of the best scenes I've seen all year belong to this younger son who loves to just sit in his living room listening to recordings of him playing guitar solos or putting his amps out by the cemetery and jammin' some riffs. Seriously--my jaw dropped and he vaguely reminded me of something a mellow Keith Paugh could become. The older son was also unreal since all of his interviews consisted of him spouting motivational materials and showing off his trophies (of what, I do not know). I swear he has the same motivational business records I bought years ago at a thrift store.

The documentary not only shed some light on the pet funeral business but highlighted how eccentric and entertaining people are. And that's worth a few chuckles.

Entertainment score: 9
Flim score: 8

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Book #2, I'm through witchu

I get embarassed when I'm reading a book by Banana Yoshimoto and someone asks what I'm reading--especially in a junior high or high school. American kids don't like the name "Banana" or people who read, and they give anyone reading a book by someone named "Banana" a quizzical look as if to determine if said reader is a fruit themself. I, myself, am attracted to women. Just look at how cute Banana Yoshimoto is.

My first introduction to Ms. Yoshimoto was a few years ago in Alaska when Jamie sent me a copy of "Kitchen" to read. It was delicious. I picked up a copy of "Amrita" before heading home at the end of that summer and liked it as well. When I went back to Juneau in 2005, I was delighted to find this used copy of "Asleep" in a little book shop by the airport. It's taken me a while to finally crack open its pages, but it was worth it.

Banana's novels are all about death. That sounds dark and depressing but her simple sentence structure and whimsical (and often nighttime) Tokyo settings make the novels more dreamy than bleak. The main characters are usually able to have some sort of encounter with the person that dies through a dream or vision so the surrealism is an important setting in all of her tales.

"Asleep" is divided into three separate stories that involve different characters in similar situations, aka "Someone close to me died." I like that Banana doesn't fill the pages with mourning and endless tears but just sort of a quiet acceptance of loss. There are no grand revelations, just a narrative that flows by and fades away (which perfectly matches the Stars of the Lid album I was listening to while reading this last night). Perfect reading for bedtime.

Entertainment score: 9
Literary score: 9

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Book #1, Thou art done.

Oh boy, a book report! I must have a lot of free time today to keep writing posts. I'm sure the novelty will wear thin quickly. Until then, however, I'm here to report on a memoir I read a few years ago and just picked up again last week: Augusten Burroughs' "Dry."

Although I'd already read this, I was teaching a few English classes at Davis High last week and needed something to pour over while the kids were taking their finals. I borrowed this from Sara long ago and thought it would be nice to read once more before finally returning it (sorry it took so long, Sara. That'll learn ya.) I read Augusten Burroughs' first memoir "Running with Scissors" many years ago which was good but I would not recommend it to anyone (unless you actually like to read grotesque stories of a messed up childhood). David Sedaris makes you laugh but Augusten Burroughs makes you cringe.

Not so with this next chapter of his life, though. Here we find Augusten grown up in New York City, rolling in the money in an ad agency and hitting the bottle pretty hard each night (perhaps to blur away those memories from his first novel?). Eventually his co-workers force him to go into rehab where after several ridiculous experiences he has a breakthrough. Fast-forward to his sober life back in NYC, many AA meetings, and a chaotic relationship with a recovering crack-addict boyfriend while his former boyfriend is slowly dying from AIDS. Will Augusten relapse?! That's the question that keeps you turning the pages.

What I really loved about this memoir was the insight not only into alcholism, but all addictions and how people choose to deal with them. The mood is also a bit lighter in this book in comparison to "Running with Scissors" so Augusten's humor comes out easier. I still marvel at all the stuff this guy has had to gone through and am looking forward to reading more of his books.

Entertainment score: 9
Literary score: 10

Dang. War is hell.

Last night I watched "Turtles Can Fly" with Rebecca and Emily which put a damper on our night. I think they were more in the mood for a
light-hearted laugh-a-thon but I had only picked up documentaries and this flim on the last run to Hollywood, so sorry ladies.

This was the first flim filmed in Iraq after Saddam was taken out and told the story of a group of ragged refugee kids on the Iraqi-Turkish border as the latest USA-Iraq war was about to begin. Other wartime movies put the blood 'n guts right up on the screen for effect but this one was a lot more psychological since the main characters were knee-high and missing limbs. Watching kids crawl through mine fields and gathering them to sell for money will leave enough of an impression on you.
When the movie ended, we just sat silently for a while and then talked for a long time about life, injustice and such. Emily's question was what should be our appropriate reaction/action after watching a movie like this (since we were sprawled about on our comfortable couches and I had finished off some slices of pizza and a bowl of ice cream). That's a tough one since since it's hard to imagine what three suburban white kids can do to help millions of people throughout the world suffering from the effects of war. We ended up offering a prayer for these people which was very powerful and touching. I need to do some research on which relief organizations I can support.

Entertainment score: 1 (it was harrowing to watch but still good to see)
Flim Score: 9.5

Oh. Okay. Let's get this thing started.

To begin the summer flim frenzy I watched "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster."

"Why?" you ask. Well, I'd heard some good buzz about this documentary when it screened at Sundance and I just discovered a teenage rocker that works with me owns it and lit up like a candle when I asked to borrow it. So although I didn't rent it from Hollywood Video it still counts as a summer viewing, smart guy.

I was never really a Metallica fan. My friend, Joey Figuerora, in 5th grade worshipped them. I remember sitting in his room listening to "Ride the Lightning" on vinyl and secretly wanting to go home and listen to my Vanilla Ice tape instead. So although my teenager rocker coworker undoubtedly bought this for its musical appeal, I was more into seeing a heavy metal band bickering in a therapist's office.

And that they did! What a bunch of babies. Nah, not really--just Lars Ulrich. Whine, whine, whine. I thought drummers were supposed to sit quietly in the back with a grin on their faces, knowing hardly anyone will remember their names. Instead Lars feels the need to sue Napster, pick fights with James Hetfield, and pout when his album title isn't chosen. He needs to take a cue from that one-armed Def Leppard drummer. Now there's a fellow who rocks it with dignity.

So basically the flim follows these guys around while they're recording the album "St. Anger" which took a long long long time to record due to various problems. It was kind of sad to watch since here are these aging metal dudes who have cut their hair and are trying to cut an album of a genre that hasn't aged well. Some of their jams were horrible and I couldn't help laughing at the lyrics they came up with ("Ominous! I'm in us!", "I'm madly in anger with you!"). Still, they were nice guys (Kirk Hammett! Let's hang out! You're a sweetie pie) and fun to watch and I think the appeal of the whole deal was the frustrating creative process of creating art, even in its metal form. And the millions of dollars you can make by getting kids to bang their heads.

Entertainment score: 8
Flim score: 8

I've found myself a lot of free time (aka Let's start bloggin')

School ended. Good grades! What now?

See how it sparkles. I like Hollywood Video. Their foreign section is pretty good. I tried getting a job there a few years ago but I didn't have any cashier experience.

So I'm on the MVP pass. That's unlimited rentals, 3 at a time! We have NetFlix as well, but I don't mind the drive to Hollywood while waiting for those to arrive. So this blog will be all about the movies I get from Hollywood this summer. And books I read so as to not appear too one-sided. I get uptight when there's no time to read for pleasure during the semester so it's nice to curl up to a nice book before bedtime.

Feel free to comment. Film ratings (# out of 10) will vary greatly on my mood and the weather outside.