11/22/2007

No Country for Old Men / Beowulf

Because it's getting late and I'm full of wine and turkey, I'll be brief:

No Country for Old Men is absolutely amazing. Perhaps the Coen Brothers finest movie ever. For me, It's right up there next to Fargo and Miller's Crossing. Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem deserve Oscar nominations for their performances as Llewelyn Moss and Anton Chigurh, respectively. Moss being the poor dumb schmuck who stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad and $2 million in cash and Chigurh being the psychopathic killer loosed upon him.

It's such a minimalistic film. Very dark, very bleak. No music. Just controlled, well-executed filmmaking at its very best. Tommy Lee Jones was great, too, as the sheriff on the trail of both Moss and Chigurh. It wasn't very much of a stretch for Jones, a role that we've seen him in before, but he had some brilliant dialogue and his delivery was oftentimes hilarious. The movie is filled with a lot of dark humor. It's nice to know that people can crack smartass jokes while being hunted like wildlife.

No Country is, quite simply, one of the best movies of the year.

...

Completely on the opposite side of the filmmaking spectrum, Beowulf was everything No Country wasn't. Loud. Action-packed. Animated.

Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary wrote a really wonderful adaptation of the ancient epic poem. They managed to craft a true narrative out of the original story's three disjointed battles between the titular character and his nemeses, Grendel, Grendel's mother and the dragon, weaving a brilliant thread throughout.

The voice acting was top notch. Ray Winstone, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie (of course, greater emphasis is placed on her character's gold-streaked attributes than Jolie's actual performance).

I have a few minor quibbles with the motion capture CGI that Bob Zemeckis dusted off for this film. The characters all looked great. The backgrounds, the water, the fire effects, everything looked amazing. But sometimes the characters didn't walk so much as float, as if they were standing on one of those moving walkways at the airport. And oftentimes the characters or items they interacted with were lacking any sort of weight and heft, which was somewhat distracting.

Overall, however, this was a marvelous movie that probably couldn't have been told without utilizing the mo-cap animation. They certainly had some skilled animators and programmers. Like any new technology, there are still some bugs to be ironed out, but it was great, great fun nonetheless.

November 22, 1963


So let us begin anew - remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us. Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms, and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations. Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors.

...

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what, together, we can do for the freedom of man.

11/21/2007

Belated (and Early)

Yesterday (Tuesday) was my father's birthday. He turned 64. It's been kind of a tough year for him. Well, a tough last few months, at any rate. Every since my grandmother moved to town in August it seems like it's been nothing but one stress-filled day after another. Regardless, I hope his birthday was slightly less painful than his recent days have been, and that things start to look a little brighter from here on out.

And hey, speaking of stress, my brother and his family will arrive in town tomorrow, for Thanksgiving. It's really the only time of year when the whole family gets together. Both my house and my sister's will, at alternating times, be filled with running, jumping and screaming children, the smells of food cooking, and the kind of idle chatter families speak to each other with.

But everyone is in relatively good health, even my grandmother, other than that whole losing her mind thing, so there really isn't anything to complain about. It's Thanksgiving after all, the time to cherish those you hold dear.

Unless you're a Native Indian. Then I imagine you curse the day the white man set foot on this continent. But hey, to each his own.

Happy (belated) birthday, Dad.

And Happy (early, in case I don't have time to blog later this week) Thanksgiving to one and all. What's everyone most thankful for?

11/14/2007

Hanukkah in November!

Oh, what a wondrous day of comic book shopping. Not one, but two, two magical comics of happiness and joy:

Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together = giddy awesomeness. Marvel in a stupor of awe as Scott Pilgrim continues his battles against his would-be girlfriend Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends!

Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier = c'mon, it's Alan Moore and his superhero team of literary fiction characters - Allan Quatermain and Mina Murray have returned! They must search for the long lost Black Dossier, a document that contains information about the fabled history the League, and could ultimately be used to destroy it!

Could this day be any more awesometastic? I think not.

So that's why ...

So I think I figured out part of the problem I've been having this semester, this slump that I'm in, for lack of a better term.

A week and a half ago the first draft of a 10-page research paper worth 50 points was due in one of my classes. I like this class. I like the material. I like the instructor. I even like the subject I chose to write about. The actual writing, however, well, I just wasn't feelin' it. So the due date came and I had nothing to turn in. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. To that point I had done an infinitesimally small amount of research and had a vague notion of what I was going to write about. That's it. So, naturally, I told the instructor that I had spaced off about printing it out that morning and asked if I could email it to him when I got home that day.

Cut to the following day. I wake up around 9 a.m., putz around reading my email and blogs and whatnot for about an hour and a half, then proceed to write, pretty much uninterrupted, for the next four or five hours. With all the research I did, I ended up with about six pages of a first draft, which I fired off to my instructor at around 4:00 or 5:00 that evening.

One would think, with all the *ahem* preparation I had done, that this would be sort of a half-assed paper, a poor attempt at earning at least a few points for the assignment.

Today the instructor handed back our first drafts. He said he was pretty impressed with a lot of them, the amount of effort that appeared to go into them, so he decided to bump the value of the assignment from 50 points to 100. Needless to say, I was rather dreading getting my paper back. First draft or no, I had written the thing in an afternoon, and while I didn't exactly slap it together, I wouldn't have imagined it being worth even half of the original 50 points it was worth.

So how many points did I receive on this assignment, now valued at a whopping 100 points?

97.

Out of 100.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what procrastination has gotten me this semester. An apathetic attitude equals 97% for a few hours of work.

Just imagine if I actually applied myself.

11/10/2007

Why We Fight

I'd like to say I've been busy the past week and a half, and that's why I haven't blogged since the day after Rose & Johnny's wedding, but, if I were being perfectly honest, I simply haven't felt like I've much of anything to say. School is going all right, better than a couple of weeks ago, I think. Or, at the very least, my attitude toward it is better. I registered for my final five classes (ever!) Thursday. Now all I have to do is pass the classes I'm in currently and shoulder on through next semester and I'm done. Graduation is in May. Book your tickets early. They're gonna go fast. Party details to follow.

Rose & Johnny did indeed fly back to San Francisco the day after the wedding, then they were off to Hawaii the following day. They have pictures up. It looks as though they had a good time, inclement weather notwithstanding.

A few remaining wedding stragglers hung out at Hiro last Friday night (not last night, but the week before). Jennie & Her Dave flew back to Baltimore last Sunday, so before they left, they and Becky & Jason and Alissa and I got together for some sushi and drinks. (Not being a fan of raw fish myself, I was most content with the crab rangoon.) It's always nice to be able to sit around and relax with old friends. Feels like ages ago when it wasn't such an event to see friends. But, people have jobs, less time, they move away (as I hope to do next year ... again). Thank Google for the Internet, right? (Yes, I've decided to worship the Google now, wanna make somethin' of it?)

Other than school, not much has happened the last week. While my father and my fantasy football team is in the toilet, the Steelers wailed upon the Baltimore Ravens Monday night, so that was pleasant. Our fantasy basketball team (I know, why, right? Don't ask) is in second place.

I've read a lot of great books this semester. Since I've been so "meh" toward schoolwork, I've had to have something to read, right? Yesterday I finished reading 20th Century Ghosts, a short story collection by Joe Hill, author of Heart-Shaped Box (which I've still yet to read) and son of one Stephen King. It's a great collection of stories, some very spooky, others not so much, but all written with a sure and deft hand. Thankfully for us, this apple didn't fall far from the tree.

Before that I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road, his Pulitzer-prize winning novel about a man and his son and the end of the world. I read this book for my Critical Writing class, for the book review. It was a difficult book to review, because there was so much I wanted to talk about, but I wasn't entirely sure how. The review ended up being a little disjointed. I might try to rewrite it after I get it back in class.

I'm currently rereading Stardust. I haven't read it for a while, years, probably. After seeing the movie in August, I got the itch to read it again, but I had other things on my plate up 'til now. I do have a couple of new novels sitting on my pile, waiting to be read. I'll get to them in a couple weeks.

So many books, so little time.

I guess I'll have more time after my TV shows run out of new episodes in about a month. I fully support the WGA strike and I hope everyone else does, too. Check out United Hollywood for information and updates. "Why We Fight" is a great short video that explains the writers' position, which is, basically, that they'd like to earn eight cents per DVD sale instead of four cents and that they deserve residuals from Internet viewing and downloading, while the producers and studios would rather keep all the money for themselves. Many members of the Screen Actor's Guild have been picketing alongside the writers, which has been really great to see. Their union deal is up soon, too, and everyone seems to be united on this. It's not about greed (except on the part of the studios). It's about respect and the ability to earn a living. If you have a favorite movie or TV show, you should totally be behind the writers on this.

I have been stockpiling shows on my hard drive that I've never seen and heard good things about, so I'm prepared for a prolonged strike. (Don't worry, all the shows have been illegally downloaded - shhh! - so the studios haven't gotten a dime from me. Hee hee hee.)

Tonight is the Tori Amos concert. I had gotten tickets for Alissa for her birthday, way back when. It's been a few years, I think, since I've seen Amos and I'm looking forward to the show. Plus I have to write a live music review about it for the aforementioned Critical Writing class. Should be a good time. She usually puts on a great performance.

That'll do it for me for now. I'll write about the concert later.

11/01/2007

Rose & Johnny's Wedding

Photos are up.

The wedding last night was really a lot of fun. There were lots of great costumes, the ceremony was lovely, albeit slightly different from the norm (Sandman reference!), and Rose made for a very beautiful bride. (And I guess Johnny looked good, too.)

It's always nice to spend time with friends, especially on one's birthday, so I'm especially grateful to Rose and Johnny for getting married on Halloween so that I didn't have to worry about making plans. I'm only sorry that a few friends were either out of town or not invited to the wedding, but I really appreciated the phone calls and text messages, and I'll get back to everyone this weekend.

And thanks a whole lot to Jennie for putting together my last minute costume, such as it was. I'll hopefully have the group shot of all of us Wonderland characters to post soon.

Rose's dad made for an ... interesting James Bond. Certainly one who knows enjoys more than just a martini, shaken, not stirred. He was a very proud papa, and well he should have been. And I just know that Rose's mother would have loved the whole thing, from the costumes to the vows. She would've had a great time.

I guess Rose & Johnny were heading out today, back to San Francisco, I assume, though I'm not sure. I don't know if they have a honeymoon planned right away. It would've been nice to spend some more time with them, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. I'm still hoping to get out to San Francisco soon, either over winter break or after I graduate.

I hope everyone had a great Halloween, and had as much fun as I did.