Archive for June, 2010

Are moviegoers stupid?
June 29, 2010

This is a terribly written article arguing a terribly argued point and you should not read it. I’m only linking to it because it was the jumpoff point for this post.

The basic idea is that Peter Travers, Rolling Stone‘s semi-solid critic, came out with a blurb from his exclusive review of the upcoming Inception and wondered within as to whether it’ll be too smart for the general audience to wrap their minds around. The article then argues the nay point of view, and I’d tell you what their reasoning was if it weren’t so inartfully worded and incoherently constructed as to render it fairly indecipherable to me (Does this cut both ways and across mediums? If a movie can be too intelligent for dumb people, can an article be too dumb for an intelligent person? Probably.).

Anyway, the answer is quite obvious – yes. Moviegoers are stupid. There is a multitude of evidence to back up this claim, some of which I will present now. Let these facts be submitted to a candid world:

– tomorrow, 6/29/10, millions of people are going to rush out and see the latest entry in the reprehensible Twilight series.

– last year, before Avatar came along at the end of December, the similarly condemnable mind-rape that was Transformers 2 was set to have been the most widely viewed film of 2009.

– this list of the top grossing movies of the last decade, nearly all of which are a) sequels, b) adapted from previously existing franchises, c) awful or d) any combination of the other 3, and often all at once.

– most people in general aren’t that bright. Why should moviegoers, who would seem to be a pretty accurate across-the-board sampling of the general public, be any different?

Here is what “the people” get credit for – the truly blockbusting blockbusters of my generation, Titanic and Avatar, while not at all what I would call intelligent films, are supreme examples of modern storytelling. James Cameron is certainly not the most original of scenario/dialogue/character writers, but his innate sense of how to tell his stories, primarily in terms of structure and pacing, is unrivaled, and people grabbed onto that in record numbers. You can lay a great many sins at the feet of the average moviegoer (and I mean a fucking great many sins, starting with the continued success of Adam Sandler), but you can’t accuse them of not appreciating a truly well-told epic.

But what faint praise. When it comes to rejecting soulless wiz-bang crap, the public fails (massively and incontrovertibly). When it comes to embracing the original, tough but certainly decipherable film (I’ll throw out The Fountain as an example), the public fails. When it comes to turning out for small-scale dramas, even with name-brand actors, the public mostly fails (the most successful one in recent memory is American Beauty, and even adjusting its gross for today’s inflated ticket prices it wouldn’t crack $200 million.) And, in a natural extension of their gross incuriousity, when it comes to seeking out the smaller films, the independent films, the foreign films, the public is DOA.

I don’t even know why I bothered with the other 500+ words in this entry when a one word answer would’ve sufficed:

Q. Are moviegoers stupid?

A. Twilight.


This is not patriotism
June 23, 2010

It’s being a fucking bandwagoner.

Or, if you’d prefer, a front-runner. Or a fair-weather fan. Or, more generally, a tool.

But maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe this isn’t soft ethnocentrism/lapel-pin patriotism from an otherwise totally disinterested crowd, but the beginning of a newfound, sincere interest in the sport of soccer that will catch on and sweep across the nation like wildfire.

June 20, 2010

It’s great.

That’s really all that need be said.

I could talk about Pixar’s peerless storytelling, which they put on display year after year after year, but you know that already. I could talk about how Pixar does drama better than any December limited-release Oscar-bait, and laughs better than the latest Judd Apatow assembly line comedy, and action a metric fuckton better than Michael Bay’s newest FX wankfest, but, again, you know all that.

There are issues one can take with Toy Story 3, such as the villain being too reminiscent of the Prospector from the last movie, or another instance of Buzz being reset to his default, deluded space ranger self. But such issues are easily glossed over in the face of the countless ways that 3 gets things oh so right. In its treatment of classic characters and introduction of new and instantly likable ones, in the earned emotional responses it elicits, in the breakneck action sequences where I was genuinely concerned for the toys survival – through it all, the damn thing just doesn’t miss a beat.

Sequels do not have a good track record, third installments in a series even less so. And it’s never a good sign when your sequel is coming so long after the last iteration in the franchise (remember Indy 4? Yeah, I’m trying not too, either.)

Doesn’t matter. It’s Pixar. And when you’re dealing with Pixar, overall trends are less than worthless and general rules of thumb go out the window. Whatever precedent there is to defy, whatever pitfalls there are to avoid, Pixar will make it work. Because they care. Because they’re the best.

Because they’re Pixar.

More gratuitous GOP bashing
June 14, 2010

You know what’s brilliant? How the same group of dopes who blamed the burst of the housing bubble on Bill Clinton almost 8 years after he left office can turn right around and with a straight face be all sorts of righteously indignant at the very idea that Bush 43’s policy of “Knock yourself out, drill wherever/however the fuck you want” had anything at all to do with that kind-of-a-big-deal oil puddle in the Gulf that happened all of 1 1/2 years after he yee-haw-suckers-I’m-outta-here’d off into the sunset.

You know what’s even more brilliant? How this party is so ridiculously wrong about everything there is to be wrong about that their national mantra up until recently actually included the slogan “Drill, baby, drill!”.

I think there’s some irony to be found there. I could be wrong.

Ya gotta love Republicans. And by love I mean be pissed the fuck off at how their personal retardery collectively retards our national progress, but man, they make for some really palatable schadenfreude. If there’s anyone whom it’s okay to look at and say to yourself, “Shit, I am so much better than those people”, it’s, well, those people.

How the mighty have fallen
June 11, 2010

Really, John? Reduced to cracking wise with Snooki?

You know what? These two deserve each other. One’s a vapid, childish, attention-whoring tool whose antics have been exhausted of any entertainment value they once had.

The other’s on Jersey Shore.

Oy vey (Updated 6/6)
June 5, 2010

Good reading from smart people on this recent Israel/flotilla nonsense here, here and here.

“My country, right or wrong” is bad enough, but, “Another country I have no real relation to but for the manufactured one drilled into my head in perpetuity, right or wrong, even above the country I actually live in,” is a whole lot worse.

Maybe it’s because I don’t identify as a Jew at all, be it theologically or culturally, beyond being a fan of Seinfeld and the occasional bagel, but I never got sucked into the whole, “Israel is totally awesome and you must love and support it unconditionally” thing. And American Jews are indoctrinated into this line of thought from an early age, starting with Hebrew school and continuing with things like Birthright, a laughably transparent attempt to bribe teenagers into liking Israel with a free trip there to get fucked-the-fuck-up drunk.

Far too many otherwise sensible people hold to the belief that the Jewish state should be able to bleed America of treasure, national integrity and international standing ad infinitum, not to mention routinely shirk their obligation to international law and human rights. It’s nice to have a functioning democracy in the Middle East and all, but the bend-over-and-take-it relationship Israel is uniquely privy to with the United States is simply ridiculous, to say nothing of how decisively unbeneficial said relationship has been for us. Can you think of anything at all genuinely worthwhile that the United States has gotten in exchange for the exorbitant costs and and myriad headaches that come with being Israel’s closest and unconditional ally?

This should not be taken at all as a defense of terror tactics that Palestinian and Arab forces have been routinely deploying for decades. And I’m not going to touch on the overall Israel-Palestine brew-ha-ha here either. I just wish a lot of people would run this line of thought through their heads, asking themselves if they’d support their country engaging in such a one-sided, give-and-give relationship/liability with any other country but Israel:

I had it continuously drummed into my head from the time I was a small child, from every direction, that Israel was special and was to be cherished, that it’s fundamentally good but persecuted and victimized by Evil Arab forces surrounding it, that I am a part of that group and should see the world accordingly. Is this tribal identity which was pummeled into me from childhood — rather than some independent, dispassionate analysis — the reason I find myself perpetually sympathizing with and defending Israel?


Update: More excellent stuff here, discussing the all-but-ignored fact that an American citizen was one of the casualties aboard the ship; all-but-ignored because, hey, he was only a U.S. citizen by birth – it’s not like he was a real American.

So, to recap: Israel gets to act however the fuck it pleases, be it spurning the pragmatic counsel and requests of our president or murdering at point-blank range a lawfully protesting American citizen. In exchange for the privilege of this relationship with Israel we get to… pay them billions of dollars a year in foreign aid.

Is there such a thing as Battered Ally Syndrome?

Line of the Night
June 2, 2010

“It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the shit out of it. I just cost that kid a perfect game.”

– umpire Jim Joyce on what was perhaps the biggest blown call in the history of baseball, never mind his career

Joyce is going to take a lot of crap over flubbing the last out of what would’ve been the 21st perfect game ever pitched, but he really shouldn’t. Fuckups happen; his just happened at the worst possible time. The guy offered a whole-hearted apology afterward, which is all you can ask of someone in his position, and I suspect more than you’d get from most of his colleagues. Can you imagine if this were, for example, that fat schlub Joe West? He’d just tell us the video was wrong, the runner was safe and, “Buy my new CD!”

In an era of umpiring characterized by attention-seeking fools like West or confrontational would-be tough guys like Angel Hernandez, Jim Joyce is one of the good ones, a consummate professional (and rather famous novelist) who ignores all the other bullshit in favor of focusing on the only job an umpire has: get the call right. Tonight he didn’t. It happens.

The bigger culprit here is Major League Baseball – if a proper replay system were in place instead of the half-assed version they have now, this could’ve all been avoided. All you’d need is a fifth umpire on every crew set up in a video room inside the clubhouse; he sees a missed call, he tells his colleagues on the field via headset, “Hey, that guy/ball was safe/out/fair/foul”, and they change the call.

I guess the point I’m getting at here is that baseball, like so many other things in this world, would be all the better off if I were the one calling the shots.

(And if you’re wondering how I could possibly go from talking about a blown call by an umpire to lamenting how I’m not in charge of everything in only four paragraphs, honestly, what blog have you been reading?)

From the Department of Blindingly Obvious Information
June 2, 2010

Tea Party clowns don’t like blacks, Muslims, gays and immigrants in general.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it doesn’t make you racist just because you believe that, “If blacks would only try harder, they would be as well off as whites.”

Maybe you’re not a xenophobe simply because you agree that, “Immigration is changing the culture in the US for the worse.”

Perhaps you can believe that, “We should single out Muslims or Middle Easterners for airport security stops” while simultaneously being perfectly okay with Muslims.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe these people are just what they’ve insisted they are all along, fiscally responsible libertarian minded folk who just “want our country back.”

Nah. They’re bigoted toolbags who only want their country back from that effete monkeyterrorist in the White House, and I’m never wrong.

It was the best of times
June 1, 2010

it was the BLURST of times???