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The Movies of 2008 (so far)

So, this is a weird time to write this (the winter season is usually the best for movies), but I made a list of what I’ve seen so far and I’m gonna use it. I’ll give you the name of the movie, a one sentence review and a letter grade. Here we go (in order of release)…

  • Cloverfield. Scary as hell, espeically in the theater. A-.
  • Rambo. Rambo is old and shoots things, good times. C+.
  • In Bruges. Better than it should have been. A-.
  • Jumper. Not so hot, but it has Sam Jackson. D.
  • Diary of the Dead. Just stop with the social messages, George. D.
  • Be Kind, Rewind. I seem to be the only person who really liked this one. B+.
  • Charlie Bartlett. Better than Rushmore. B.
  • 10,000 B.C. Just bad, except the mammoths. D.
  • The Bank Job. Jason Statham needs to do more serious stuff. B-.
  • Doomsday. Only the end was any good. C.
  • Funny Games. Anything but, yet well made and effective. B.
  • 21. Really formulaic. C.
  • Run Fatboy Run. A waste of talent. C.
  • The Ruins. The German guy was awesome, everything else ok. C+.
  • Young@Heart. Moving and funny doc about singing old people. A-.
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Better than Knocked Up and Superbad. B.
  • Iron Man. A whole lotta fun. A.
  • Son of Rambow. Cute and inventive. A-.
  • The Fall. Beautiful and touching. A+.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Reepicheep (Eddie Izzard) is the best part. C+.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Not the best but not bad at all. B.
  • The Strangers. Straightforward scares. B.
  • Kung Fu Panda. Pretty great, the prison scene is amazing. B+.
  • The Happening. Hilarious in all the worst ways. D+.
  • The Incredible Hulk. I hate Ed Norton, but this was ok. C+.
  • Get Smart. Fun but formulaic. C+.
  • Wall-E. Every superlative I could throw at this wouldn’t be enough. A+.
  • Wanted. Like The Happening, hilarious in all the worst ways (the ending was pretty great, though). C.
  • Hancock. Could have been great, but is just good as is. B.
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite directors and this is as good as anything else he has done. A+.
  • The Dark Knight. A great movie. A+.
  • Step Brothers. The two leads have great chemistry that carries the movie through the slow parts. B-.
  • Pineapple Express. My favorite Seth Rogen movie (mostly because of James Franco). B.
  • Tropic Thunder. RDJ is great again. B+.
  • Burn After Reading. Hilarious and dark. B+.
  • How To Lose Friends and Alienate People. Simon Pegg gets a role that is worthy of his greatness. B.
  • Changeling. I cried once or twice (mostly because of Jolie’s great acting). B+.
  • Synecdoche, New York. Confusing but great. B+/A-.

So that’s it so far. Upcoming movies that look great:

  • Milk
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Wrestler
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Doubt
  • The Brothers Bloom
  • Waltz With Bashir
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Best Music Video Ever?

Is Biz Markie’s You Got What I Need the best music video ever? I think it is. Allow me to give a point by point breakdown for your enjoyment/approval.

  • It starts off with a little skit. None of this beginning with the song BS, we want — DEMAND — a story if we are going to enjoy a music video.
  • The above mentioned skit begins with a “yo mama” joke. This is 1989 and “yo mama” jokes are the height of hilarity. Hell, this is 2008 and they are still pretty funny.
  • Purple jumpsuit.
  • Gold chains.
  • “Yo mama is so old she knew Central Park when it was just a plant.” Ahh, the “yo mama” jokes that don’t even make sense. Those were the days.
  • The two girls that are the object of the boys on the bench’s attention are not exactly wearing what we would call “good looking” clothes.
  • “You got what I need, man!” “Let me touch you!”
  • “Forget them girls, man!” Is Biz an advocate for abstinence?
  • Have you ever met a girl that you tried to date/but a year to make love she wanted you to wait” Biz channels Shakespeare. And not for the last time.
  • I was talkin’ to this girl from the U.S. nation.” Was the girl before this one from the commonwealth of Massachusetts? Why does Biz feel the need to get so specific?
  • I just got onstage drippin’, pourin’ with sweat.” Uh, gross. Grosser, perhaps, is the line for line translation of song into visuals, complete with dripping and pouring sweat.
  • “Come to the picture booth/So I can ask you some questions to see if your hundred proof.” Putting aside the strange place for a conversation, let’s look closer at the “100 proof” part. According to Wikipedia: Alcoholic proof is twice the percentage of alcohol by volume when measured at a temperature of 60°F. Consequently, 100-proof whiskey contains 50% alcohol by volume. So did Biz want to know how drunk she was (50 % alcohol would be pretty drunk) or did he just not understand the proof concept fully?
  • I asked her her name, she said blah-blah-blah.” That’s an unfortunate name.
  • She had 9/10 pants and a very big bra/I took a couple of flicks and she was enthused.” Thanks, Biz. I think we can see this quite clearly in the video, but the narration really brings it all into focus for us.
  • Then when I asked, ‘Do ya have a man?’ she tried to pretend/She said, ‘No I don’t, I only have a friend'” Oh Biz, will you ever find the right girl for you?
  • The chorus is what takes this seemingly mundane song into the straosphere. In additon to the fact that Biz is one of the worst singers I have ever heard, he decides to play dress-up and dons a wig and some 18th centry clothes (plus cape!) to rock out on the piano. The beat drops for Biz’s “showpiece” singing and then kicks right back in as he sloughs off his super-awesome cape to really sing his heart out. They employ the special “mirror trick” to make it seem like two (TWO!) Biz Markies are rocking the piano. TWO!
  • “So I took blah-blah’s word for it at this time
    I thought just havin’ a friend couldn’t be no crime
    ‘Cause I have friends and that’s a fact
    Like Agnes, Agatha, Germaine, and Jacq” But it could be a crime, couldn’t it Biz? A crime against your heart!
  • Forget about that, let’s go into the story
    About a girl named blah-blah-blah that adored me” Biz is not full of himself at all.
  • Nice bathing suits!
  • Aww, a puppy.
  • Check out those cell-phones. I wish I had something as awesome as that.
  • Talk about superflouous jewelry. I guess Blah-Blah-Blah’s new guy has more money than poor old Biz with his gigantic cell-phone.
  • And we’re back to the chorus. This time his awesome, super-cool-walking servant is featured. He walks super-cool. Also, more mirroring. TWO!
  • I went to a gate to ask where was her dorm/This guy made me fill out a visitor’s form” Biz will not sacrifice his artistic integrity just to get to the point! He must share every detail of his trip.
  • Biz “dances” his way towards the school along with some brightly atired friends. With twirly sticks.
  • Yo, could you tell me where is door three?” It’s the door that has the number 3 on it. Silly Biz.
  • They showed me where it was for the moment” Although now I understand why Biz asked where it was. Apparently it changes location several times a day.
  • Oh, snap!”
  • A fella tongue-kissin’ my girl in the mouth,/I was so in shock my heart went down south” Biz should have followed his heart. A vacation to Florida is just what he needs at this point.
  • So please listen to the message that I send/Don’t ever talk to a girl who says she just has a friend” So this was a PSA all along! How informative. Remember kids, never ever talk to a girl who says she has a friend. They always cheat on you.
  • That little wave thing he does at the very end is the best dance ever. In the history of all mankind, including the future history.

So, there you have it. Best music video ever. TM.


Grading the Teacher

Well, this is the end, I suppose. No more Friday Writings from your favoritest student ever. No more wit or insight, no more crazy stories. But enough about me, let’s talk about you. They say a man can be judged by his car or the books he reads/assigns-in-class. I don’t know what kind of car you drive, so I’ll go on the books you had us read this semester, starting, in the natural way, at the end.

A.S. Byatt’s five short stories were pretty excellent (although I am assuming that the last two live up to the bar the first three have set as I have not yet read them). “Body Art” is my least favorite so far, perhaps because it isn’t as fantastical as the other two, but I appreciate it. “The Thing in the Forrest” and “A Stone Woman” were great, strange yet realistically portrayed. Byatt’s style works in her favor for the fantasy stories; her prose is my favorite of the bunch.

Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus was also a lot of fun. Fevvers and crew were very likeable and entertaining to read. I appreciated the craziness of it, especially in the last third. I really hated the design of the book, though. The font and margins were too small for me to get comfortable and made the book seem smaller than it was. I really enjoyed the actual content of the book, though, so another score for you.

Which brings us to Orlando. I had seen the film last year for something completely unrelated. I enjoyed the film (Tilda Swinton is as close as you are going to get to a man in an actress, in the best possible way), but the book was a lot better. It was funny and touching and strange and I loved it. The concept was excellent and well executed. I will be seeking out more from Woolf.

The Girls of Slender Means was another hit. I really liked the super-omniscient narrator and the characters were a lot of fun. And it was short.

Unfortunately for you, the streak ends there. The End of the Affair is the definition of a book ruined by a message. Orlando and Nights at the Circus were feminist works but they didn’t beat you over the head with it. Greene started off strong with an interesting if unlikable character. Then he turned everything stupid by making a statement about religion. Once he used the characters as plot points instead of people I checked out. Try again next time.

Ohh, another miss with A Passage to India. I can’t quite put a finger on why I didn’t like this. Perhaps it was that I didn’t care about the topic, or maybe it was that I didn’t care about anybody except Mrs. Moore. And it was long. Really long and boring.

Luckily, D.H. Lawrence rescues you from a horrible fate of ending on a bad note. None of the stories we read were as good as the other good stories we read earlier in this little paper (and later in the semester) but they were good enough. I’m not a fan of the “write exactly what people say even if the reader won’t understand it” thing that he had going on in “Love Among the Haystacks” but it didn’t hurt him too much.

I was an engineering major before I came over to the dark side of thinking about things and reading books, so I’m gonna give you a grade based on percentages:

  • % of good stories (each short counts for one): 83.3repeating
  • % of good books: 71.4
  • % of good pages: 66.1

You didn’t do so hot on the pages portion, but you did score extra points for putting all the good ones towards the end. So I’ll give you a B with room for improvement. Ways of improvement would be to take A Passage to India and The End of the Affair off the syllabus and replacing them with good things. Thanks in advance.

Losing my virginity

Today (well, technically yesterday) I lost my virginity (yay for truth in headlines!)! That’s right, I played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time. And it was a lot of fun. Like a lot. Earlier in the summer my friend John suggested that we play D&D and I was down for it but we never got around to it. We finally played several hours ago and it was a blast.

John and Jesse had played before but I was new to the whole thing unless you count watching the horrible movie, which I don’t. Neither of them particularly wanted to be the Dungeon Master so I said I would do it. Everybody who knows me understands how much I enjoy trying new things, but I was genuinely excited. I enjoy the fantasy genre and the whole creating things on the fly idea was intriguing. We did a kind of quick match thing and I just riffed off of what they had in a book. Again, it was a lot of fun. Two “adventures” later Jesse and I switched roles and he became the DM and I became a player. It wasn’t as fun for me. Perhaps I just enjoy being in control. Anyways, John gave me two books, including one that was full of monsters which seems like it would be cool but the age of the book and the style of the drawings turns it into awesomeness incarnate (or, inpageate, as it’s on paper instead of meat). So, give it a try, you may like it more than sex. Probably not, though.

On Tuesday we elected the first (half) black president for our great country. I voted for him, but I am beginning to think that it was a bad idea. As everybody knows, once there is a black president in the White House, a disaster is sure to follow. When Morgan Freeman was president a giant meteor hit the earth and killed Elijah Wood and his friends. When the Prudential guy was president there were like a billion attacks on the US by terrorists and only Keifer Sutherland could stop them. Now with Obama our president-elect, I fear we are in for the worst disaster yet: Zombies.

Since we cannot do anything to stop the Zombie apocalypse from coming the best we can do as a people is be prepared for when it happens. The first thing you want to consider is if you want to survive long enough to use the measures I will detail below. The thing with zombies is that the question is now “Will I survive?” but “For how long will I survive.” It is inevitable that once zombies attack everybody on Earth will succumb to their inexorable march toward world domination in the form of eating everybody. If you do not wish to live long enough to see your family and friends turn into the living dead the only preparation you must make is to purchase a gun and a bullet.

If, however, you are determined to survive as long as possible against the zombie horde there are a few actions you must not do. First, do not go to a mall or a military base or a pub or a house or a “safe zone” to wait out the undead’s hunger. All of these places will inevitably fall no matter how mighty the protection they may give seems, usually due to your fellow survivors’ stupidity. “Where else can I go?” you may ask and I do not have the answer for you, I just know where you shouldn’t go. If your location does not fit one of the four descriptions given above you should be ok.

Weapons are an important item to consider, second only behind sustenance. Depending on the type of zombie outbreak you are dealing with you will want to utilize different weapons. If the zombie-ness is transferable through blood contact you will want to avoid any close range encounter and will want to get a long range weapon. If the zombies of are the fast variety instead of the more traditional slow variation you will want a backup close range weapon just in case you do not effectively stop a zombie at a distance. Remember to avoid fire because the undead do not care about anything except your brains and a conflagration isn’t going to stop them from trying to get you.

Although the temptation to join a small gang and wear leather pants and ride around on motorcycles with weapons on the end of chains will be high, I implore you to consider taking the lone ranger route. The biggest liability you will face after the zombies attack will be your companions. You will consistently have to slow down for them or venture into dangerous situations because one of them had a nervous breakdown. Try not to think of this as a loss of humanity brought on by the dead rising but instead think of it as a way to harden yourself for a long-term survival strategy. The decision you will face will be the decision to either try to find your family or not. While they may provide comfort in the terrible times ahead, they will surely become liabilities and, in the end, you will probably have to kill the undead versions of them. Better to just go it alone for all of your sakes.

Now that I have told you what to not do, good luck figuring out what you actually should do. I have no idea. Perhaps I will be able to join you if you figure it out? No? Ok. Thanks anyways.

Top 20: Movies. Number 12

The Prestige!

Christopher Nolan’s film between the excellent Batman Begins and the even better Dark Knight is perhaps the best of the bunch. It’s the story of Batman and Wolverine competing as magicians and David Bowie inventing electricity with the help of Gollum/King Kong. And it’s got a twist better than The Village! You can’t go wrong with The Prestige if you want a fun and exciting movie.

Unfortunately it also has ScarJo and she is a horrible actress but luckily she can’t drag down the whole movie.

Top 20: Movies. Number 13

I’m back to doing this. I’ll finish it soon.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

One of the best films from last year (and least seen), TAoJJbtCRF (even the abbreviation is long!) is a long, beautiful film in which Brad Pitt’s Jesse James slowly becomes paranoid and is finally killed by Casey Affleck’s Robert Ford. Now that you know what happens, watch the film and enjoy it’s beauty:

Autobiography

I was born yesterday. Today I am twenty and some number of months, but that does not matter. Of all the times that matter in a man’s life, right now matters the least, if it matters at all. I am constantly asked what I am going to do when I get out of school or what I did to get into school or what I had for breakfast or if I want to do something later tonight. Nobody asks why I’m doing what I’m doing when I’m doing it because it doesn’t matter. It mattered when it was the future and it will matter when it becomes the past, but when it’s the present it is insignificant. So, with that in mind, I will tell you how I got here and where I will go after I leave this place.

When I was born, as I mentioned earlier, I was a baby. It tends to be that people are born as little versions of themselves and then the grow up to be regular sized versions and then shrink again until they die, if they live long enough to get that far on the eternal timeline. I was born at the very end of that timeline, the far left end where time went from a dot to a line, grew up itself from one dimension into two. I grew up with it and as it got bigger and longer I got older and more experienced. At the beginning I flew through the cosmos, trying to find a nice place to settle down and live out my life. I didn’t find one, but I did end up here on Earth. There was still a lot of lava and shit back then, not much in the way of water or life or HD TVs. It was kind of boring, but only in retrospect, as there was nothing to compare the experience to. Lava is pretty slow unless it is erupting from a volcano and we all know how often that happens. The next day there were dinosaurs and they were fun to watch. They ate each other and plants and were pretty big. Some of them swam in the ocean which appeared overnight and some of them flew in the air. I went to sleep again and they were all gone. There were a bunch of little mammals in their place and they were cute to watch. They grew almost instantly into apes and those grew again into people. Or the people and all the other animals that walked the earth at that time were just poofed there; I can’t recall which way it happened. It doesn’t matter either, they were there and they began to make towns and cities and the next day they were flying in the sky and later that day they were flying to the moon and beyond. It was like the best season of 24 ever. And now we’re here, twenty somethings later and I am writing this sentence. Next I will write the next one and then the one after that. After I’m done I’ll print it out and hand it into you, the teacher, and then you’ll read it but I’ll have forgotten about it by then. Monday you might read it out loud or you might just hand it to me with a little note on the bottom of the page that says “fun read” or “interesting” or “what a load of bullshit”. After that I’ll graduate and become a famous author or screenwriter or I’ll die in a horrible clown-car vs. hot-air-balloon crash and I might be famous from that, too. Even more likely than any of those things happening, though, is that I’ll find a person to spend the rest of my life with and we will have kids and live happily ever after, but without all of the famous stuff. Or I might never work up the courage to ask somebody I like to go out and I’ll die at home when I’m 80 with my cats and they will eat my dead body like that one time on CSI or Law and Order: Super Awesome Unit. But when that happens it will be the present for a second, and it won’t matter until it turns from the future to the past.

Artsy Epic Poem

This is reality, or is it fake? I am stuck in this avalanche, I can’t get out of it.  I advise you to spread your eyelids and lift them to the blue void to understand this. I have no money nor do I need you to feel bad about it. I can take it or leave it, plus or minus. Whatever happens means little. Even to me.

My mother! I recently murdered somebody. I purchased a projectile flinger and threatened the man. I fired the gun and killed the man. Mother! My experience had recently started but now it is already over. Mother! Oh! I didn’t intend for you to be upset. If I do not return in roughly twenty four hours, please continue with your life as it was. Continue it, pretending that everything means nothing.

The hour is late, I am no longer able to continue. I have chills along my back, and the rest of my earthly vessel hurts all hours of the day. Adios, all of you, I must leave now. I must retire from you and understand what I have done. Mother! Oh! (whichever direction the air moves) I wish to continue to live, however I sometimes pray that I had remained a non-entity.

I envision a small outline of a male human being.  Idealist! Idealist! Won’t you dance to mixture of folk and flamenco music. The gods are bowling, it scares me! A lot! Physicist! Mathematician! Astronomer! Philosopher! Tuscan! Kitty cartoon character! Quickly acquired, quickly lost. Won’t you allow me to leave?  No, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes. Negative, on no account, not at all, certainly not, definitely not, by no means, nope. Pierce, Colin, Stellan, please allow me to exit. The Devil has a demon waiting for me to arrive.

You believe you can throw rocks at me and then project your saliva into my ocular glands? You believe you can be enamored with me and then withdraw from me to depart this mortal coil? Oh young child! You are not allowed to act in this manner, newborn! I mus leave, I must leave at this moment.

Everything is meaningless, all are privy to this information. Everything is meaningless, everything is meaningless, in my eyes. All directions the air moves…

Your Mom is Fake

Here’s another Friday Writing. I think you’ll get all the context you’ll need.

Last week there was, I believe, a complaint about the Friday Writings (now with caps) being too self-referential. You didn’t actually read them, as that would defeat the purpose, but from what I gathered, the FW’s that talk about FW’s are, at least in the opinion of two of our fellow classmates, stupid. I don’t know if it was a quote when you said that they wanted to “talk about something that was real” or whether that was a paraphrase on your part. Either way, it’s pretty stupid. What makes anything worth more than anything else? There seems to be a value judgment based on whether the topic of conversation pertains to our daily lives or if it just exists in that misty realm that is everything else, aka real=worthy while not real=unworthy. I am here to tell you that both are equally worthy. What I say goes, so listen up.

After the laments of last week our beloved teacher read to us a story about a friendship on the decline. I have been through this with two people whom I counted as BFFs (best friends forever), so I have some experience in the field. The good thing is that now that our relationship is over I can make up anything I want about them. I still care about them and I wish them no harm, but since our separation I am convinced that my best friend throughout elementary school has become the last medieval knight. He roams the land and kills dragons and rescues hot damsels in distress. It’s a lot of fun for both of us. I could look him up on Facebook and find out that he is just some guy going to college like the rest of us, but what’s the point of that? It’s as real to me as the other scenario. Why not make up a fantastical story for him to live out? Cuz it’s not real? That’s a poor excuse if I ever heard one. And I have heard several, after uttering them myself.

Here’s another example for ya. I need to pad this out a bit. Every semester there is at least one teacher who does the “go around the room and tell us about yourself” routine. It’s not a bad idea, just a little overused. I propose something slightly different for your next class. Have each person say three things about themselves, but have them make up one of them. Encourage a little fun and imagination in the typical introductory period. One could say, “Hi, my name is _______. I’m a painter and I travel to Los Angeles to be an extra in films every summer. I also enjoy standing out alone in the rain,” or “I enjoy eating iPods, French fries, and bananas,” or “I am a knight who roams the land and kills dragons. I also like music and meeting new people.” Just because things aren’t “real” doesn’t mean they don’t mean things. Think on that for a second or two.