Thursday, August 20, 2009

Give the pigs a workout, for once

We've become so accustomed to incompetent thieves, that when they do something as simple as a wear a mask, it's considered revelatory.

From a story about about some dudes who've stolen millions of dollars in jewelry from some JC Penny stores:

"From my viewpoint, it was incredibly sophisticated," Sheriff Strain said. "Detectives have a surveillance tape of the two men inside, but their faces are covered. They've done an incredible job of concealment."

Oh no! Foiled again by the old mask trick! Incredible planning, incredible execution! But will the masked bandits strike again?

Someone needs to start holding seminars to remind all the other half-wits planning on robbing Jimmy Johns and Subways and gas stations:
A) Wear a fucking mask
B) Wear gloves
C) Wear pants and long-sleeved shirts to conceal race
C) Have a getaway car parked, with a driver, in a place not seen by the people you are robbing

I thought everyone in this country spent all their free time watching movies and television and eating potato chips. How have they still not picked up any of this stuff? I'm going to have a real breakdown if one more "criminal" get caught 'cause someone easily identified them to the police and men "fitting the description" were pulled over just blocks from the scene. How are we supposed to have any excitement when our best thieves are the guys robbing jewelry from JC Penny stores? Jesus, I hope they didn't take all the Paco jeans, too.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wasted Postage: Reports from the Netflix theater: The Strangers, Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist, Heavenly Creatures

The Strangers (2009) - Surprisingly enough, it's legitimately frightening for the first 50 minutes. But after an hour or so of watching the doomed couple make one predictably boneheaded move after another, mucking up any chance of survival, you almost feel like the they deserve whatever knifing they are about to get. Whatever character-building subplot established in the beginning is also tossed out the window as soon the "mysterious" boogiemen/women start harassing the shampoo-commercial couple (Scott Speedman/Liv Tyler). I get that they were going for the minimalist thrills of old horror, but at a certain point all the well-executed dread and wide-angle shots in the world aren't going to keep me interested for over an hour in the same house with the same lame killers.

Another in the long line of "based on true events that no one knows anything about except a couple dead bodies and a bunch of blood-spray patterns," The Strangers tries so hard to keep the, um, strangers, mysterious, that by the end the vicious killers are just kind of boring. (It also attempts some sort of tossed-off, wannabe Funny Games statement by near end, but with neither the conviction nor moralizing to pull it off, and it reads more like a cop out for all the nihilism than an actual idea) But, it's still better at creating suspense and general fright than just about every other horror movie I've seen recently, so shit, I'll give it a B.

Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist (2008)
Nick and Nora drive around NY having a generally unpleasant time, arguing about boys and girls and dragging the audience along for the drudgery. It's only redeemed by Michael Cera's dry one liners, which are almost canceled out by annoying indie-band name drops and twee quirkiness (look it's a Yugo! haha! Look, they drew popular indie band names around the title card like school notebook. puke). D+/C-

Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Peter Jackson's second-to-last film before heading to Middle Earth, Heavenly Creatures tells the true story of two New Zealand teens (Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) who form an unbreakable and destructive friendship. Jackson's manic camera movements, dutch-angle close ups and realer-than-real color saturation create an instantly-recognizable, surrealistic canvas to paint his characters. Winslet and Lynskey nail crazy - Lynskey the angsty brooding type, Winslet confident and bright (with occasional steps into overacting).

Jackson's impressive trick is keeping the story grounded by Lynskey's character's real life diaries, while still coloring outside the lines during the girl's escapes into f/x fantasy that slowly become more nightmarish to anyone watching. The farther they are allowed to run into their own world, the farther they are from ever being reigned in, taking the audience with them to the devastating and inevitable conclusion. B+

Stop ruining the Big Lewbowski

Can we just resume enjoying the Big Lebowski the way people used to celebrate somewhat-cultish celluloid? By quoting it casually, using it as a litmus test for friends and watching it late at night?

This guy, along with Volkswagen, is trying really, really hard to ruin the Big Lebowski:

Too many more guys like this and I'll be embarrassed to talk about the dude, Donnie, Walter, the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers or The Jesus out loud ever again.

The Peoria Chiefs (minor league baseball team) has a "Big Lebowski night" this month. What the fuck is that? Are we supposed to bring little Tommy and Timmy to the game, pass them joints and White Russians and then go shopping for bowling balls after the game? Or is Big Lebowski night the game when everyone replaces every other word in their vocab with "fuck?"

On second thought, Big Lebowski night could be agreeable, 'cause when some turtleneck clad dad gives me the stink eye for cursing in front of his 14-year-old daughters who routinely say much, much worse, I'll get to tell him to "Shut the fuck up, Donny. You're out of your element," and then give him a big smile and say "it's Big Lebowski night, man."

But, back to the point. Enough with the embarrassing conventions, the robes and jellies. Stop ruining the Big Lebowski, just stop it. I mean it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Black Lips - Drugs

Haha this is the best video I've ever seen.


(In Illinois you can't text while driving, or talk on the phone in a construction or school zone while driving, thanks to two new laws)


1. No changing the radio station or track on the radio/CD player while driving.
2. No talking to passengers in the car while driving.
3. Construction workers must wear foam suits, covered in bubble wrap, on top of steal armor.
4. All cars made hence forward will have room for the driver only, the heat and cooling will be automated, no nobs or twirly doonabbers and flashing lights or controls besides gas, break and shifter.

You can't legislate stupidity. We're just a couple genomes away from hairy primates that live in trees and eat their own boogers/fling poo, yet we feel confidant enough to drive 2,000 pound heaps of steal and fiberglass propelled by rapid fire explosions just a few feet from our noodles. If we believe we are capable of this thoroughly absurd feet, then everything else is water under the stupid metaphor. People are going to get hit by stupid people that can't keep the jalopy in line. It's what happens when you allow primates to drive cars. Cell phones aren't the problem. People are the problem.

As Kurt Vonnegut loved to say, we're just monkeys with over-sized brains. Every time I drive, I'm surprised the parkways aren't a completely chaotic mess of collisions, swerving vehicles and brashly irrational movements not contained by the rules of the road. Consider how we navigate other decisions in our lives. The great meat grinder that is our interstate highway system might actually be mankind's most impressive, organized participatory system, and it still manages to tear us apart one gruesome collision after another. Our greatest accomplishments are our greatest follies. This is going no where, don't worry.

Now, we can always try our best to manipulate the laws in ways necessary to make the roads as safe as possible. But I'm sick and tired (and tired of being sick and sick of being tired and too sick to be tired and too tired to be sick and too sick to be sick and too tired to be tired) of legislation that limits our own personal freedom on things as mundane as talking on a cell phone because some of our monkey brothers and sisters are too busy spreading gossip in the middle of rush hour to pay attention to the road.

Next time I'm on a leisurely cruise down a state highway, getting a phone call out of the way that I would never make on my own time at home, I'll make sure to abruptly hang up without warning right before entering the construction zone.

Rant over.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wasted Postage - Reports from the Netflix theater

Crumb (1994) - Robert Crumb's art revealed his subconscious to the world, without sanitizing the heinous, primal, insecure and brilliant regions of his brain. His cartoons and drawings could objectify and empower women at the same time and critique his own lust while indulging it simultaneously. Terry Zwygoff's intimate documentary paints a similarly complicated portrait of a man still obsessed with childhood and early sexual urges, his own twisted yet admirable morality and staunch rejection of American consumerism. The cameras also document the heartbreaking existence of his two similarly talented brothers, both racked by mental and physical conditions, who never escaped their demons. Crumb is, by comparison, the well-adjusted one of the three products of childhood abusive. What's revealed about their past leaves the impression that we didn't learn everything nasty about their developmental years. Crumb is an unlikely likable figure - a nonconforming misanthrope and possible sociopath who will always be focused on his own desires. He may never relate to other people, but people will always respond to his art and what it revealed about the American character. A

BenX (2007) - This film from the Netherlands centers around Ben, an autistic teen bullied in some pretty extreme ways by classmates, finding his direction and revenge (with the help of a MPDG, of course). Ben views the world like his favorite massively-multiplayer online role-playing game, and the film distractingly switches back and forth between what's really going on and his imagined visualization of his world as a video game. Ben struggles to find a way to get even with his classmates, as the direction cuts back and forth between faux-documentary interviews with his family and acquaintances. BenX manages to be repetitive and boring, despite it's inventive format. C-

M (1931) - M is Metropolis director Fritz Lang's first "talkie," and features cinema's first serial killer. Dark and quietly disturbing, Lang uses images of candy wrappers and discarded balloons to say more about loss and violence that all the fake blood ever could. M was also Germany's first sound film. it's interesting to watch a director try to figure out how to best use a young medium — the structure uses literary-like monologues and voice overs to transition and comment on what what's happening on screen. The technical skill evidenced during scenes with parallel editing structure and seamless cuts is artistic in a way unique to a medium in its earliest years, when creativity is often a result of thrift.

There are few "main" characters, M is largely an ensemble. Lang loves to show the underground worlds and subcultures. As in Metropolis, he contrasts and compares what's happening both above and below ground. The film ends in grand fashion, with a spirited and at times absurd philosophical debate about crime, punishment and responsibility. Oh, and the killer is sick twisted pedophile. A

Waltz With Bashir (2008)
Using a combination of flash and traditional animation, Waltz With Bashir follows director/writer Ari Folmen's journey to unlock his memories of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Fulman uses a series of fictionalized documentary-style interviews with fellow soldiers, fleshed out by flashbacks to the conflicts, to help clarify his blurred images that slowly come into focus, and eliminate the false memories created when the brain fills in the blanks.
As Fulman puts the pieces together, he slowly builds chronologically to the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, and it's moral implications - Israeli troops surrounded the camps and allowed Lebanese Christian Philangy militants to enter and murder thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians - A hard truth to swallow by generations of Israelis still partially defined by the holocaust. A