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Thinking About War of the Worlds

Until the debacle known as Munich, I would have declared Steven Spielberg a national treasure. I know that many people dislike his sentimental endings, and I agree, for the most part. Yet his cinematic skills can't be denied. Do you feel blatantly manipulated by his films? Well, sure, and that's a measure of their success. Earlier in the same year he vomited out Munich, Spielberg released War of the Worlds, and I've been thinking about it recently. No particular reason, other than that I miss the master at his best, and WotW is often Spielberg at his very, very best. One of the first things Spielberg does very well is choose his approach to the film at hand. With E.T., for instance, he commanded that the camera would never be more than Elliot's eye-level above the ground. Thus, we're always looking up at adults and the things around Elliot and E.T. It's a subtle thing, to be sure, but once you realize it you revel in the genius. With WotW he opted for a documen…

Introductions

I've been blogging elsewhere and it occurred to me that I should probably have a blog with a name that actually, remotely matches the content. And here we are.

More to come.

Older entries can be found here.

Winona as Amanda?

The news from that film factory down south, the vast wasteland known as Hollywood, just keeps getting worse, and I'm not talking about the writers' strike. No, I mean the word that Winona Ryder has been cast as Amanda Grayson, mother of Spock, in the 2008 Star Trek film, the 11th in the series.
My stomach actually lurched. Most of the cast just looks dreadful, but their acting talents are -- to me -- generally unknown, so they might surprise me. That's not the case with Winona, and there's just no freakin' way she can do Amanda Grayson, originally played by the wonderful Jane Wyatt, any sense of justice. This is just frighteningly bad, almost worse than that Speed Racer trailer thingee.
The casting of Simon Pegg gave me hope. Now hope is crushed. What's terrible is knowing that it can get even worse, that they can come up with a real crappy re-design of the Enterprise.

Dear God, no, not Speed....

I take some time off just for the sake of sanity and The Woman Who Currently Wants to Monopolize Me (and may I just say, "Yeehah"), and what do I discover...?

Good Lord, no, stop this thing from happening."Move it, Speed, it's getting ugly out there." Well, yeah. Can you hear Don Davis echoes of The Matrix in the music? Can you see the garish color schemes, a laDick Tracy? Can you sense the deep, probing, inquisitive acting, the sort that makes you long for the soaring talent of, say, Keanu Reeves (can you smell the sarcasm?)?I hope they refine the CGI because even that looks lousy. Watching this actually make my skin crawl. A mere trailer hasn't done that since, well, the first teaser for Wall-E (and please be good, Wall-E, please, please please).
Nicki Finke has a list of titles for screenplays read and reviewed by varied and sundry Hollywood studios during 2007. The titles on that list sound better than this Speed Racer thingee (it's not really a movie…

How animation should be done

I grew up in a household of animation. By that I mean that animation was never "cartoons" and never just for kids. My dad worked in film in the San Francisco. For a brief while he owned and operated a small production company. His notable productions were a series of ads for Rice-a-Roni -- which meant we ate lots and lots of Rice-a-Roni for a while -- and a multi-part syndicated history of California. But his first love was animation. His closest friends and colleagues all worked in animation, either as producers, artists, or animators. I worked with him for close to 10 years and was a very crackerjack animation stand operator. Given a little more ambition and willingness to travel (i.e., to Los Angeles) I might have made it a career. Alas, it was not to be. I mention all that by way of preface. Because of all that, I love a good animated show. In the United States, unfortunately, this almost always means kids' flicks. In this country we maintain the prejudice that if …

Prestige Pictures

Dirty Harry asks What Happened To The Prestige Picture? and has an answer:When you look at the best Picture nominees of the last three years it’s astounding to realize that of the 15 nominations, only three cracked the $100 million mark — two by a whisker. The average box office gross of the 2006 nominees was $59 million; in 2005 it was $49 million. Another way to look at it is that 98% of the population just wasn’t interested.  While there’s still plenty of prestige films left to be released in 2007, as of now things are looking even worse: Michael Clayton, In The Valley of Elah, Lust Caution, Sicko, The Brave One, Eastern Promises, Into The Wild, The Darjeeling Limited, and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, have each been, or are looking to be, very expensive flops… Or, are they? To call these films failures is fair in the sense that audience indifference is quite spectacular, but not when you take into account that audience reaction had little or nothing to do with their conception. Prest…

Right, uh-huh, no media bias

This is how the speech is reported:ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) - The U.S. mission in Iraq is a "nightmare with no end in sight" because of political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today, a former chief of U.S.-led forces said Friday. Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded coalition troops for a year beginning June 2003, cast a wide net of blame for both political and military shortcomings in Iraq that helped open the way for the insurgency - such as disbanding the Saddam-era military and failing to cement ties with tribal leaders and quickly establish civilian government after Saddam was toppled.But that's not the opening subject of Sanchez's speech, this is (original in all-caps, changed here for clarity):On the other hand, unfortunately, I have issued ultimatums to some of you for unscrupulous reporting that was solely focused on supporting your agenda and preconcieved notions of what our military had done. I also refused to talk to th…

Arguably the Best Casting Decision in Film History

From Ain't It Cool News, comes this:Fucking Yippee, Harry Here!!! Ok - I'm in. Simon Pegg as Scotty is as wonderful as an Asian Girl Sandwich night. I'm fucking deliriously happy. This is the first piece of STAR TREK casting that JJ has done that has made me drool with anticipation. The word is that the budget has gotten bigger and bigger and that for the first time in the history of the franchise, STAR TREK is being given a truly epic budget to recreate, conceive and explore Gene's universe. That news and SIMON "fucking" PEGG - make this the happiest day in Trek geek life, other than the day STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN was released.Sorry, had to leave all the F-bombs and R-spikes in there because it's obvious that Harry is ecstatic, and so am I. The rest of the casting for this film has left me cowering in a corner in fear. This single move, even if of a secondary character, might just save the day.Yes, I think Simon Pegg is that good.

I Wanna New Phone

I put it in those terms because while my Treo 650 is beginning to show its age, it still (mostly) works. It does randomly stupid things, such as resetting while sitting on the table not being touched, and sometimes the call volume is ridiculously low (though that could just be my ancient and aging ears). My needs are relatively simple. Anything I buy must do a desktop sync with Outlook. (Don't give me any grief, Outlook works just perfect for me.) I make this demand because I don't want to rekey all my contacts into a new phone, let alone my to-do's and calendar. If it syncs with Outlook then, voila, the phone just populates itself from my existing data. After this comes my wish list. I'd like to be able to write and edit on any new device. This might be something as simple as entering a note and syncing it into the aforementioned Outlook, or something more complex like Documents-to-Go on the Treo (though Documents-to-Go frankly sucks and was the source of 99% of my …

DVD: Black Book (Zwartboek)

I confess, I am a Paul Verhoeven fan. Even when he stumbles, I'm still entertained. All right, I've never seen Showgirls, so it's possible, even probable, that he's made at least one totally irredeemable film. That said, I'm still a fan. I discovered this wholly by accident. I saw Robocop, was surprised how much I enjoyed it, and saw that Verhoeven not only directed Robo but had also directed one of my favorite war films, A Soldier of Orange. I hadn't paid attention to who directed Soldier, and so this all came as a pleasant surprise. From then on, I kept a watchful eye for the next Verhoeven film, carefully avoiding Showgirls (which may or may not suck, though I am given to believe that it sucks pretty damn hard, pun possibly intended). And so I got a little depressed when he left the US in search of his cinematic roots. I heard about his next big thing, but until the DVD I wasn't able to at last catch up with Black Book (Dutch title, Zwartboek). Black Bo…

Iowahawk, Sewer Side Chat

Iowahawk, Sewer Side Chat:Questioner
Hi, I'm Josh Markin of the ESU Progressive Student Alliance, and I'd just like to say that as a campus activist for peace and justice, that I am totally down with how you have stood up against the fascist neo-Jew GPA thugs at A E Pi, and their plans for busting every grade curve on this campus. Gromulak
Moje vznášadlo je plné úhorov Gromulak! Pun jegulja loma-làn!Interpreter
These words please Gromulak! Continue your tribute, Hu-Man! Questioner
Awesome! But I do have one problem. Warren continues to blame you and the mutant community for the sewage explosion that destroyed Baxter Hall in 2005, even though all the evidence points to an inside job! For example, did you know that sewage doesn't burn? Why did A E Pi have advanced warning? And what about the damage to Rec Building 7? All the facts are in this pamphlet! Why won't you come out and tell the truth that you are innocent, and that Warren's thugs blew up Baxter so he could pl…

Amazing article

The New York Times has dropped its "Times Select" subscription nonsense and, as an added bonus, opened up its archives. Which means I can finally link to an amazing article from 2005:To More Inmates, Life Term Means Dying Behind BarsWhich contains this fascinating insight:Indeed, in just the last 30 years, the United States has created something never before seen in its history and unheard of around the globe: a booming population of prisoners whose only way out of prison is likely to be inside a coffin."Unheard of around the globe"? And precisely what is a "life sentence" supposed to be if it's not life imprisonment? Last, doesn't this undercut the entire argument that life imprisonment is the humane alternative to the death penalty?I was amazed when I first read this and felt compelled to share.

Never Forgotten

POW's Prayer
By Jean Ray and L. Vancil

Father,
Your own Son was a prisoner.
Condemned, he died for us.
Victorious, He returned to bring us the gift of life everlasting.
Comfort us now in our longing for the return of the Prisoners Of War and those Missing In Action.
Help Us Father;
Inspire us to remove the obstacles.
Give courage to those who know the truth to speak out.
Grant wisdom to the negotiators, and compassion to the jailors.
Inspire the media to speak out as loudly as they have in the past.
Protect those who seek in secret and help them to succeed.
Show us the tools to do Your will.
Guard and bless those in captivity, their families, and those who work for their release.
Let them come home soon.

Thank you Father.
Amen.

(For more information, click here.)

Who is Paul Haggis and why should I care?

Actually, I don't and there's no reason I should. I'm just marveling at how well regarded he is and comparing that to how mediocre his work is. Maybe I'm jealous.Haggis makes Message Films, and he makes them like that, with capital letters. He's like the noob who discovers the rocket launcher in Quake and that's all he'll ever use. He's like someone who has just discovered all the font possibilities within Word, so he uses all of them.Consider Million Dollar Baby, written by Haggis. He got an Oscar nomination for the screenplay and the film went on to win the golden guy for best picture. Now I was attracted to see it because a) it was directed by Clint Eastwood and b) I find Hilary Swank to be very gentle on the eyes, even when she's all buffed up as an unstoppable female boxer. That this film should have been great was a no brainer.Instead, the film literally had no brains and, much worse, assumed the audience had none.I can't authoritatively c…

Maintaining Focus

Mary Katherine Ham remembers September 11, 2001, in visceral terms: On that day, 19 young men--inhabitants of our country, recipients of our hospitality, beneficiaries of our prosperity, wearing modern clothes to cloak a primitive hatred--turned planes into missiles, passengers into war casualties, and a beautiful Tuesday morning into a day that changed the world forever. They were driven by a radical ideology, a charismatic leader, the funding of villains, and the protection of rogues. They killed 3,000 people that day.Anna Quindlen remembers to takes advantage of the sixth anniversary of September 11, 2001, to attack Bush. As is the norm, she does so in haphazard fashion, but it was this bit that caught my eye: Instead of trying to understand and therefore counter the mind-set of those who hate us, and to rally our allies in their communities, American jingoism has produced an ugly strain of anti-Muslim thought and chatter.For myself, I'm tired of being told that I must try an…

Remembering

There's something about date/day anniversaries that always haunts me. It's one thing to recognize the date; it rolls around every year. But when the date corresponds to the day of the week of the event, the memory is somehow stronger.Thus, when December 7 rolls around on a Sunday, Pearl Harbor takes on greater meaning. And today is the sixth anniversary of September 11, 2001, and it's on a Tuesday, just as then.The casualties should have been worse. There have been so many complaints about things that went badly that day, yet the simple fact remains that over 50,000 people could have died, yet so many were saved by planning and training, and quiet acts of anonymous heroism.The office where I work sits under one of Sacramento International Airport's departure routes. There's always something flying overhead. And that morning I looked up into empty, blue, silent skies.Evil visited the United States that day, and a clear line was drawn. For over 30 years the United St…

Brian De Palma, BDS victim

Right off the bat I have a confession to make: I think most of Brian De Palma's films are crap. They stink, they're horrible, they're ungood and unwell made. When he makes a good one, it's generally very good, but they are rare exceptions. For every good De Palma film there are several that suck. For every The Untouchables there's...well, everything he's made since, and that's been twenty years. His latest film, Redacted, premiered at the Venice film festival and left audiences sobbing. What is the source material for this inspirational presentation? The story of several US soldiers in Iraq kidnapping, raping, and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl. As De Palma puts it, he read that account and knew he had a story. Isn't that nice? On the surface it sounds like a thin re-tread of his snoozefest, Casualties of War. It, too, involved rape, torture, and murder. It painted the picture that one good soldier comes forward to confess and he's the villain t…

The Smugness of Apple

Steve Jobs danced across the stage today, introducing a new collection of iPods. There weren't many surprises. Actually, were there any surprises? Well, yes. The prices were surprising. First, wow, what a slap to anyone who ran out and bought an iPhone. A wait of 69 days saves you a cool $200! At $399, the 8GB iPhone begins to look attractive. It's biggest failing, for me, is the inability to create Word or Excel documents. You can look at them, but don't touch, let alone create. This is just a software revision away, but since the iPhone is a closed development environment -- unless you want to hack it open and risk voiding warranties, etc. -- I'm not holding my breath. Still, even lacking that the iPhone is now a serious contender as Bob's Next Phone. I gave up on Documents to Go on my Treo 650 since it was the source of almost every problem I had on the Treo. Since then, I haven't edited much of anything on the Treo. If the iPhone has some basic editor, some…

AFP demonstrates how well they check facts

I mean, this is hilarious!MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia plans to send a manned mission to the Moon by 2025 and wants to build a permanent base there shortly after, the head of Russian space agency Roskosmos said Friday. "According to our estimates we will be ready for a manned flight to the Moon in 2025," Anatoly Perminov told reporters. An "inhabited station" could be built there between 2027 and 2032, he said. The only moon landing in history is NASA's Apollo expedition in 1968.(Emphasis mine.) First the unfired bullets that were "shot" at the old woman's home, now this. And in case you just tuned in, December 1968 was when Apollo 8 first orbited the Moon. The US landed on the Moon in July 1969. We did it again five more times, the last one being Apollo 17, in December 1972. So if the illustrious French news agency can't get some basic, obvious, simple history right, what does that say about the rest of their "reporting"? And I thought re…

Olive Opus No.5 = Heaven on Earth

I want one. Simple as that. Once acquired I'd just have to piece together a worthy stereo. Click logo to see why.

Martin Lewis calls for a coup d'etat; what a maroon!

He asserts to General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs:You can relieve the President of his command.Not of his Presidency. But of his military role as Commander-In-Chief. You simply invoke the Uniform Code Of Military Justice.He tries to dodge accusations of a coup by writing: To be crystal clear - I am NOT advocating or inciting you to undertake any illegal act, insurrection, mutiny, putsch or military coup. You are an honorable patriotic man. I am NOT advocating or inciting you to interfere with any of the civilian duties of the President. That would not be a legal action by you.His bio reads: Martin Lewis is a British-born, Hollywood-based humorist, commentator, producer and radio host.Maybe I should be kind and just consider this a pathetic attempt at humor. He is, after all, a humorist, oh haha, it is to laugh. Absent humor, though, I'm left with only one conclusion, that he's an an idiot. Captain Ed neatly sums up why this is so: Lewis quotes extensively from the…

Bond versus Bourne

First, let me note that this is a thought exercise about fictional characters. There is no real "James Bond", there is no real "Jason Bourne". You could argue that Bond is closer to reality since author Ian Fleming based much of his writing on his own experiences, but that's a stretch. What makes this interesting, though, is that the debate keeps cropping up. Matt Damon was quoted in the UK, at the opening his the third Bourne film, saying that Bond sucked. I don't know if anyone solicited a response from the current Bond actor, Daniel Craig. Then a commentary on MSNBCdeclares essentially the same thing, that Bond is a has-been and that Bourne more accurate reflects our modern, complicated world. I gag. I haven't yet seen the third Bourne film. I'll probably wait for the DVD, since that's how I've seen the first two. I enjoyed the first and was pleased with the second. I have mixed feelings about the third. Why? Because near the beginning of…

A fable too over-the-top for Hollywood?

I had to wonder when I found this jewel:Most of us, myself included, tend to take our democratic institutions for granted. They were there when we were born. They were there for 200+ years. The idea that the US could somehow no longer be a representative democracy does not resonate at the gut-level, even when events should demonstrate the vulnerability of our system.Yet, twice in the last 4 decades, the US Constitution has come very close to extinction. Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, each occurred in the setting of a war begun with a series of lies, and continued beyond the point when everyone knew the ultimate outcome would be unaffected, but was pursued just for the vanity of those in power.He is, of course, referring to then-Nixon and now-Bush.He starts his hyperbole by praising a judge for getting angry and imposing a maximum sentence as a result of that anger. Given almost any set of principles, no one would support a judge acting out of anger. The reality is that …

When did Macs become cost competitive?

Well, actually they haven't, but Mac software is. No, it's more accurate to say Mac software is kicking Windows ass. Microsoft has a pricing plan for Vista that can charitably be described as a "scheme". It also doesn't make a lick of sense to me. To make matters worse, the reality is that if/when you buy a copy of the software you get all versions on your DVD. Your activation code determines which version installs, that's all. What this means is that at any time you can pay for an "upgrade" and unlock additional "features". What this means is that MS is leveraging their vast majority share of the operating system market. They are also complicating the hell out of buying decisions. In contrast, Apple is suddenly becoming nimble (in addition to already being arrogant, smug, and conceited). The latest Mac operating system retails at around $150. Period. End of story. Does MS Windows Vista Ultimate Mind-boggling Confused Version do anything t…

My blog is rated...

Wow, right on target...

Man on the Moon

38 years ago yesterday, we landed on the Moon. Ever since, the space program -- around the world -- has gone backwards. Almost immediately after Neil Armstrong transmitted, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. Eagle has landed", President Nixon started hacking at NASA's budget. Congress followed suit and that's been the trend and pattern ever since. The engineering nightmare known as the space shuttle was the result, an under-funded, under-engineered, over-wrought, half-assed manned space vehicle that has never lived up to a single promise. Most stories in the press blame NASA but the real blame lies with the political leadership of the United States. NASA said the shuttle would cost X and Congress told NASA it could have three-fourths of X. NASA cowered and said, "Okay." Congress then gave them one-half X. On and on, asking for more while paying less. NASA's "fault" lay in never saying, "Well, that's not enough to make this thing work.&q…

Harry Potter and the Transformers

A two-fer deal here, since neither is very long.... Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixI haven't read any of the Harry Potter books. I've tried, and a friend gave me a paperback copy of the first, but it fails utterly to grab my interest. The first two films are snooze-worthy. While the first does a decent job of introducing everyone, the second isn't worth remembering. I didn't bother to see the third at the theatre because the second was so...dull. That was a mistake. The Prisoner of Azkaban was superb and proved that the problem with the first two films was the director. The Goblet of Fire, the fourth film, continued the trend with yet another director, and now I'm completely hooked. Happily, The Order of the Phoenix, the fifth film, continues the trend. Mostly. I qualify that because not a lot really happens. Indeed, in terms of the series as a whole, Order completes its task within the last half hour or so. Most everything else is just fluff. Thankfully,…

How did they know...?

I'm a Porsche 911!

You have a classic style, but you're up-to-date with the latest technology. You're ambitious, competitive, and you love to win. Performance, precision, and prestige - you're one of the elite,and you know it.
Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Talent, Lifer, Mandarin...?

I'm a Talent!You're a risk-taker, and you follow your passions. You're determined to take on the world and succeed on your own terms. Whether in the arts, science, engineering, business, or politics, you fearlessly express your own vision of the world. You're not afraid of a fight, and you're not afraid to bet your future on your own abilities. If you find a job boring or stifling, you're already preparing your resume. You believe in doing what you love, and you're not willing to settle for an ordinary life.Talent: 59%
Lifer: 31%
Mandarin: 41%
Take the Talent, Lifer, or Mandarin quiz.

New style of remake: Steal, no credit

Or at least, that's how it appears at the moment.You have the latest Jodie Foster film, The Brave One, which looks an awful lot like an old Charles Bronson film, namely Death Wish.The setup and premise is a virtual carbon copy: Loving couple broken apart when one spouse is brutally killed. In the case of The Brave One, they're out for a walk and get mugged; in the case of Death Wish, it's a home invasion robbery. Foster's character is unsatisfied with the "progress" being unmade in finding her husband's killer, so she goes on the hunt herself, popping bad guys while seeking The bad guy. Bronson was more straight-forward; he just starts striking back at muggers and the like and by accident -- or so it seemed -- he does eventually kill his wife's killers.Death Wish was raked over the critical coals as providing provocation for vigilantes. Since The Brave One has a more A-list director (Neil Jordan), plus stars Foster, it will probably get better treatme…

iDon't Want One

As I've mentioned, Jeff Kirvin and I don't see eye to eye on politics, but when he's buzzing on technology, he's spot on more often than not. In The iPhone is a bad phone he writes:Let’s look at this objectively. This is, at minimum, a $500 phone that has no tactile feedback for dialing, no voice dial, no smart dial (ie dialing 5478 to narrow your contacts to KIRV), no Bluetooth stereo headset support, no dial-up networking support for an attached computer, 2.5G data that is normally about 2-3 times dial-up modem speed, no video recording, no MMS for sending pictures, only takes pictures at 2MP and automatically resizes them to VGA for email (no way to override either of those sizes). The SIM card is removable and will work in other devices, but other SIMs will not work in this GSM world phone, so you’ll have to pay AT&T roaming charges to use this outside the US. Unlike every other phone available today, there is no free 14-day grace period and if you buy an iPhon…

Jetsetters Pave, er, Save the Planet

Oh, I feel so relieved. For a moment there I almost thought that there was an issue with climate change, global warming, and catastrophic weather change. But given the number of "Live Earth" concerts that are going off, apparently all is well. I come to this conclusion by the simple logic that if things were really, really horrible, the concert participants -- good little stewards of the world that they are -- wouldn't be barfing so much carbon into the air as they go about lecturing the rest of us. With song. I don't give a fig about "carbon offsets" and being "green". My lifestyle is more green than any of those involved in this fiasco; every Greenpeace test I take tells me so. That's irrelevant, however. The problem with carbon offsets is that they don't address what is purported to be the issue, i.e., pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That you can offset this by purchasing an indulgence from someone else misses the point. Y…

The wonder of Ratatouille

I have this fantasy. I imagine the day when US animators start treating their art like their Japanese brethren, as a means of making film that isn't limited to a kid's audience. Consider Paprika, a very R-rated animated film, or Akira or the entire Ghost in the Shell series. The mind boggles at what might result if a talent such as Brad Bird, backed by a studio like Pixar, took on a more adult project, like Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light. (An interesting story of a cancelled film version may be found here.) Until then, we have Ratatouille. It might be an over-statement to call Ratatouille the best film of the year, but not by much. Certainly if Beauty and the Beast can get such a nomination, this film can because it is far more deserving. Ratatouille raises the bar in so many ways it's amazing to consider that it is "merely" an animated film. Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) rules animation the same way that light and air rule your life; there reall…