Sammy the Seal

Archive for July, 2008|Monthly archive page

“The motherfucker stabbed me!”

In funny ha ha on Monday, 28 July, 2008 at 20:01

Most people aren’t naturally funny. It’s a real gift that manifests itself naturally and effortlessly, so, as with other skills, talents, and intelligences, very few people are blessed with it. For all the times I vilify the wannabe clever people on YouTube making their own videos, there occasionally comes along something that makes you laugh out of cleverness rather than stupidity, or pity. (As David St. Hubbins famously discovered, there’s a very fine line between clever and stupid.) It’s not high art, but it’s good for what it is.

It’s a fake trailer for Good Will Hunting, where someone re-cuts a movie to make a different genre or style of film altogether (The Shining was the first well-known example of this). In this case, Good Will Hunted, it becomes a political action thriller. I think it works whether you’ve seen the film or not, because you can see the film later and still appreciate the joke.

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I was completely, utterly conned

In celluloid on Monday, 28 July, 2008 at 4:48

(Note: written early Saturday, posted early Monday, then updated one last time since I re-read it and realized I didn’t finish a few sentences, ha ha)
I had a good time at a Wolf Parade concert last night, and I’ve been completely brought down. I heard so much hype about Spiderman 2 and was excited to rent it. “I just got to see a good concert, now I’m going to go home and watch a movie I’ve heard so much about!”

This movie is shit. Pure, unmistakably, Hollywood-grade shit. I can’t remember the last time a bad movie got under my skin. Based on my reaction, this has to be the worst film I’ve ever seen. (I admit the main reason is because of expectation.) This is sad, but I’m so upset, I’m re-viewing the movie in double speed so I can make a thorough litany of my anger.

– awkward, clichéd dialogue, starting with the pointless scene of Peter as a pizza delivery boy. Every line is so unnatural and is mere expository or meant to convey plot or a character’s state of mind. Hey, why not let the actor try that? There are NO good lines, everything is cute and clichéd, and all the “inspirational” lines come at supremely opportune moments.
– the music is as ordinary as you can find in an action movie, with cues telling you what’s coming and how to feel. Melodramatic as hell, not to mention the licensed music, soft-rock by numbers. The closing credits, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”, etc.
– one-liners from everyone, even the extras bit parts (“he stole that guy’s pizza!”; “Butterfingers!”; “You have a train to catch!”; “nothing will stop us, nothing!”; “my mom always said to eat my vegetables, but I never believed her!”; the snooty usher; when Spidey has to ride the elevator and talks to Hal Sparks; the mystique-shattering scene when Spidey with his mask off exchanges barbs with the people on the out-of-control train). It never ends.
– Forced emotion. Oh lord, the forced emotion, the fakery of it all. The fact that a professional actress has time to focus on when Peter isn’t or is there, and that the fact that the film takes a few beats so we know how she feels about it.
– the one-note, yet increasingly annoying performance of the newspaper’s editor
– the way EVERYTHING, I mean, EVERYTHING goes wrong for Peter at the beginning of the movie, from Peter being late to work, to missing Mary Jane’s play, to being fired as delivery boy, to the landlord taking his $20, to getting bad grades, to his ruined laundry— I didn’t feel sorry for him, I thought he was a huge loser.
– the way Mary Jane continues to give Peter chance after chance, despite the fact that he repeatedly shows that he has no spine. Tell me, girls, how realistic a portrayal of a woman this is? Coming from the other POV, I can tell you women, even nice ones, tend to find that shit pathetic and unattractive. For one moment there is realism, when he finally sees her play and says, “let’s pick up where we left off” and she says “we never got on, you can get off if you never got on”, and that “just because you saw my play, you think you can talk me out of marriage?” I cheered for her. But, of course, she predictably leaves the altar to run through the streets of New York in her wedding gown to find Peter.
– the role of Harry, who has one purpose: unremittingly and relentlessly remind us how he hates Spiderman for killing his father, culminating in a groan-inducing scene near the end where he sees his dad in the mirror asking him to avenge his death, Harry refusing, and his dad saying “you’re weak, you always were!” Are you fucking kidding me?
– how EVERYTHING is contrived and convenient, and how plot and character twists come in the very same scene, if not the next one (the color-by-number criminals complete with black stocking caps that drag Peter from the play; disaster strikes the very first time we see the tentacles; Octavius lamenting the experiment with his back to the camera, then turning around two seconds later as evil, capping it by putting on sunglasses, what fucking bullshit; Peter having an identity crisis (yawn!), and his doctor giving him psychological advice when he goes in for a physical, followed by visions of his dead uncle; Peter and his aunt at Uncle Ben’s grave, and in the VERY NEXT scene, he confesses the truth about how he was responsible for his death, and shortly after that, his aunt forgets about being mad and gives him a speech about how the world needs heroes; Peter quitting Spiderman, reading the headline of the paper saying “Crime up 75%”, then he looks up and directly in front of him there is a burning building; etc. etc.)
– everything about Dr. Octopus (including the way they come up with the nickname immediately after he appears). The tentacles as highly sentient entities, killing the medical staff while Octavius is unconscious? That’s some great A.I. I thought he was a physicist, not a neuroscientist. Despite the fact that there’s a man with super-tentacles on the loose, there is no sense of danger in the city. Especially because he’s not really a villain, he just wants to build his machine. It sucks, because I think he looked good and could have been a great villain, but all he ended up doing was rob a bank, fight with Spiderman, and mess with a train. He’s really just up to mischief. The film ignored him most of the movie, except to remind us that he’s up to no good. Oh, and just like when the chip in his neck goes bad, it suddenly works again at the end of the film, and Octavius is good, but he can instantly control these monstrous tentacles without any practice, just in time to save the city.
– I became increasingly infuriated with each far-fetched action scene. Seeing people (not just Peter) slammed repeatedly against solid structures, such as brick, concrete, and wrought iron(!) and bouncing back easily pissed me off. This includes the Doc, and um, he just has tentacles, the rest of his body should be taking punishment like all the others. All the action was CGI, and sooo CGI at that, that it was completely unimpressive. When he flings from building to building, there is no sense of astonishment or sense of height to make us gasp; it all seems like an exercise in CGI. I know he’s a mutant, but the abuse Spidey takes is too fantastical. He has the strength of Superman! (See: the train scene, or every fight scene.) It reminded me of what I loved about Batman Begins, specifically, Bruce Wayne waking up with bruises, because, guess what? This superhero shit hurts and takes a real toll on the human body. At least Superman has an excuse, he’s from another planet. But being bitten by a special spider?
– red herrings abound. What does Spidey losing his webbing abilities, or his aunt losing her house have to do with anything? Or the cute, shy daughter giving him chocolate cake and milk?
– the fact that when you add all this up, there is no sense of reality, only theatricality, and therefore ZERO dramatic tension. None, not one iota. Not once did I sweat, or change my posture because I was tense, or focus on what was on screen. Every single frame reminds you that this is a summer blockbuster, not a story. There is one moment that I felt could have been very sweet but was ruined by everything that came before it, when Spidey caught the wall that was about to fall on Mary Jane.

What bothered me the most is that EVERYONE called this the greatest superhero movie ever made, even the respectable critics. (Ebert: “Now this is what a superhero movie should be… It’s simply and poignantly a realization that being Spider-Man is a burden that Peter Parker is not entirely willing to bear.” Yeah, it’s kind of hard to miss since the film smashes you over the head with that from frame one and the script is purely exposition for this point.) I honestly, out loud, asked myself over and over if I was dreaming or if I was insane. This couldn’t possible be the same movie everyone is talking about. All this talk about character development, more meaningful action scenes, how to make a superhero movie the right way. All I saw was lame, lame, lame. It made me lose respect for Spiderman as a superhero. He’s a dorky kid who got bitten by a spider, but he’s still a dork. At least Batman has a back story, at least he’s complicated. Everything in this film was too easy, and too happy.

As I type this, I still think I’m living in a fantasy world. And it’s not like I was in a bad mood, like I said, I just saw one of my favorite bands in concert. Sorry Wolf Parade, all the good will squandered. Fucking Spiderman 2. (Update: I’m not re-viewing the movie in double time anymore, I saw a light. The following day I went to work and talked with a friend of mine, and ended up talking about Enchanted and how much I love Amy Adams, so all is right again. Besides, I’m not wasting my time with that.)

I’m waiting on a friend of mine to see The Dark Knight, but for instructions on how to really make a superhero/action movie, start with Batman Begins. Take every single note I made here and go a million miles in the complete opposite direction. Character and plot are taken seriously and progress naturally, very few snickers and one-liners, realistic crises for the characters, a very dark tone, well-done action and fighting. Everything is organic to the story being told, nothing is gratuitous. Oh yeah!

Delusional?

In vinyl on Thursday, 24 July, 2008 at 13:37

I always say I really like the Hold Steady but don’t think of them as my favorite band. But then I talk about them, and it’s pretty obvious that I love them. And then I read this interview from when their 2006 record was released and I know it’s true. Maybe it’s because I don’t necessarily relate to the stories in their songs. But having read the interview, I think it’s because of the music and the philosophy behind the music. Everything Mr. Finn says is so practical, it makes sense, and it’s very open-minded. Also he’s in 30s. He’s an artist, he loves what he does, but never is he snobby about it, even though he name-drops John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. (He also drops Ghostface, Miles Davis, and the Dead Kennedys, but maybe he’s using them as examples of diversity rather than his own tastes.) I won’t point out each detail, read every word. That’s why I like them.

Anyway, I’m going to a second show of theirs in a year in a couple of weeks. It stinks because just last time, no can/wants to come with me. Last year I said “I know you don’t listen to them, but I know you’ll have the best time of your life.” Then I actually saw them, and they lived up to the hype by the third song. Now that my sentiments are predicated on reality, I REALLY wish someone could come with, but oh well, I’ll still have a good time. I feel bad that the tickets are only $15, I feel like I’m ripping them off for the show they put on. Maybe I’ll buy some more merch.

I still listen to as much other music, but they fill a very necessary void. Good, fun, well-written and -performed rock made by people who piss all over the pursuit of cool. No “indieness”, no navelgazing, no artsy-fartsy, no “emotional” singing or screaming, no incompetence— seriously, without hyperbole, THIS is what joy is. The fact that it’s made by middle-aged guys rather than young whippersnappers is all the more wonderful and awe-inspiring.

That’s why I put them as my myspace song again.

“I’m emotional– ask me why!”

In Uncategorized on Monday, 21 July, 2008 at 3:25

I need a button like that. You know, the ones people who work in shops, restaurants, or departments stores wear. That’s me all over— it’d fit right in with my “I just don’t listen” pin. (Note: art project idea.)

Somewhere in the middle

In words, words, words on Friday, 18 July, 2008 at 4:17

It’s kind of bizarre to have a trip/vacation that you shrug your shoulders about. I got back to work the other day after spending four days in North Carolina with most of my immediate family, and of course people ask questions. For some reason, we think in extremes, so when you say something wasn’t great (i.e., my vacation), it’s taken to mean the opposite. If things aren’t one thing, they must be the other. But maybe sometimes things aren’t wonderful, or terrible, they just are. Simple to understand, right? We all know that life rarely works in black and white, and yet we keep trying to categorize things and people too easily (to say nothing of the arrogance of assigning a subtext of one’s own creation to another person). We’re all entitled to our highs and lows, but as well, our in-betweens, neutrality, or indifference.

Maybe if I had brought a friend, or had a girlfriend. Other than the common bond of growing up together after all these years, I, Sam, feel quite different from my family. It’s natural to be different and not belong, but it sort of reminds me of being sent to a small, smart-kids private school, while everyone else went to public school. Other than being in the same house, my experiences alone since the age of 7 have been quite different. That, and everyone else is married and, come autumn, with children. I know I’ll have to make decisions when I become a parent, but domestication is, anathema being too strong a word, not a desire of mine. I realize the responsibilities of a family, but now, for obvious reasons, I don’t want those any time soon. We’re just very different. It’s not a judgment, but an observation.

Fact is, it’s not really that anyway. It’s hard to enjoy things when you’re thinking about other things. Issues like “where should I go to school?” or “where will I live?” or “what will I do for money?” or “how sad is it that I don’t have anything planned for my 30th birthday?” or “I wish I had someone to love, or at least, inspire me” are a bit distracting. There was fun, and a few laughs, and chatting, and it’s always great to see the kids, but this is really what I meant by the previous paragraph. It’s not anyone’s fault, since they don’t have to worry about those issues anymore. But, that’s why I called my friend Sarah back home at 1am one night— someone to at least share my troubles with, who can empathize, who shares or has known similar quandaries in their own life. That, and I missed her. I don’t know if anyone has ever said this, but I don’t think it was the right time for me to have a vacation. I need to act, to confront, not to abscond (I know my diction here is improper, I just wanted to say that word).

All these vast explanations to say merely that my mind, thoughts, and heart were elsewhere.

“I’ve come to let my armor down”

In vinyl, words, words, words on Saturday, 5 July, 2008 at 13:36

How I love Marit Larsen, let me count the ways.

— She’s such a natural. Though her voice has grown stronger from her M2M days, it is still very unassuming and doesn’t try to do too much or tend towards histrionics. I always liked that in M2M she was quiet and shy, like she was a little unsure to be in the vocal spotlight, and that occasionally, you could hear her voice break ever so slightly. Adorable. And yet, as a solo artist, though her voice doesn’t try to do anything it can’t, the voice (literal and metaphorical) is unmistakably hers. I admit part of the attraction is that she’s female, but she’s certainly not the supermodel, airbrushed type. She’s quite sweet, the epitome of down-to-earth. Makes me want to move to Norway to find her, before the world ends.

– Too many small, idiosyncratic vocal cadences to note, some intentional, some not. You’d really have to sit and listen to the album with me to show you. Examples: “learned a thing or two” in “Only a Fool”, “when we are apart” in “Under the Surface”. She’s so awesome, I’ll stop here and just show you sometime.

– She is incredibly honest, to a fault, even. I’ve said before that I get a very good sense of her as a person through her songs, whether her acceptance of the way things are, or her own insecurities (exhibit A: “Under the Surface”, or the title of this post). Whether wondering whether she’ll “ever be lucky or win” or her conclusion that “there’s no one for me”, or indicting her herself in the third person it’s all terribly charming. Mind you, this is tricky— usually this comes across as cloying, but I think it’s a testament to her personality that she’s not trying to evoke sympathy or melodramatics, she’s can’t help but wear her heart on her sleeve.

– Finally, and probably what is the biggest attraction for me, is her playfulness. Despite her often-candid lyrics, it is evident she loves music and is having fun making it. “Only a Fool” and “The Sinking Game” are the strongest evidence for this, not least because of that slide whistle in the former, or the shouts of “we dive!” in the latter. Or her unbridled cry of “don’t you dare leave me here!” in “Don’t Save Me”. Even in my less favorite songs (comparatively) such as “This Time Tomorrow” and “Come Closer”, the music, especially the breakdowns, is just so ebullient and enthusiastic. Even in a slower, more atmospheric song like “Recent Illusion”, she tosses in that “chk-a-ch” at the end of a couple of lines. Really, you’d have to sit down and listen to this album with me (it’s called Under the Surface, by the way 😛 )

I don’t know how to stream music, but I’ll try to get something by her up here. Try to find it, it really is worth it. Unfortunately, it’s import only— she sadly doesn’t have any stateside distribution. I bought mine off Amazon, I think that’s the only way, for now. I was initially hooked by “Only a Fool”, though I now must admit, somewhat blasphemously, that “The Sinking Game” has slightly surpassed it as my favorite. If either of these songs don’t hook you, you’re no fun. Marit is a gem.