Saturday, February 23, 2008

Jane, Jane, Jane

Art Boy is out of town, leaving me all alone (come and get me, brigands!), so last night I kicked back with an enormous [vice redacted] and watched "Northanger Abbey" on Masterpiece Theatre -- or "Masterpiece," as it is now apparently called. Once Gillian Anderson's unbearably awkward introduction was out of the way, I rather enjoyed it. It's short (2 hours) and so necessarily a bit broad in its insights, but that's appropriate for Jane Austen's most melodramatic book. And I found it charmingly modern -- lots of sexual overtones and gothic-fantasy sequences.

This morning I dropped by the applicable Republic of Pemberley discussion board to see what people thought and found largely positive responses, although there are some detours to discuss grammatical issues raised by the dialogue and share a link to the somewhat inevitable Very Secret Diary of Henry Tilney. I am torn between being annoyed at the ongoing trendiness of Jane Austen, and charmed at the ongoing geekiness of the Internet.

Sebastian has interrupted me with a series of hideous sounds before I am able to bring this post to any kind of conclusion. Sorry, gang.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Circle of life

To complete the circle of life, I took myself to see "Juno" this afternoon. Once more, expectations were low -- it's been compared to "Little Miss Sunshine," which Art Boy and I roundly loathed, and Slate is already doing articles about the Juno backlash. But the cast is just so fab, and Art Boy recently learned that Ellen Page was in the first season of "Trailer Park Boys," and Kelly loved it. So I took advantage of a cloudy day off and went, figuring now was the time in case that backlash thing gets any worse.

Well, it is quite nice. Pretty much all I can say about it is to compare it favorably to LMS: the characters are developed, not overly precious, and the story gives everyone the space to change and be complicated. It's always the characters in charge of the story, not the other way around, so it really works. I don't know that it is the Best Picture of the Year, but really, more people should be making movies like this. And I am in favor of anything that involves a dump truck full of money pulling up to Michael Cera's door. (Imagine him answering the doorbell and being all bashful. Aww!)

Yeah, there is Rainn Wilson at the beginning saying things like "homeskillet," and the hamburger phone gave me a moment of terror that this was going to be Napoleon Dynamite. (Although I remain fond of Napoleon Dynamite.) But it gets better. Kelly is correct that the worst moment is a character saying "Honest to blog?" but it's gotten out of the way quickly. I was reminded of Molly Ringwald getting on the bus in "Sixteen Candles" and going "I loathe the bus": it's just a new generation of largely invented teenspeak. I was going to focus this post on that, but discovered that screenwriter Diablo Cody's phrasings have already been examined and analyzed. It's nice to see the teen movie successfully moving forward. In your face, YouTube!

Dear "Diary of the Dead"....

[I should now apostrophize the movie, but cannot bring myself to.]

I can't believe it but I really didn't mind "Diary of the Dead" one bit. After reading a slew of poor-to-middling reviews, I was prepared to hate it. (Final Girl loathed it; there's a surprisingly charitable review on Slate.) It certainly isn't scary, and most of the characters are insufferable, and it hammers its point home to the point of ridiculousness -- but it's never quite boring. A group of film students are making a low-budget mummy movie in the woods, pausing for some "Scream"-esque commentary about horror movie tropes: "How come the girl being chased always falls down?" and "The monster needs to shamble, not run." They hear news broadcasts about the dead returning to life to attack the living, and decide to go check on their friends and families. Eventually, most of them are piled in a Winnebago, heading for the home of heroine Debra, who is apparently the only one interested in making sure her parents are all right.

Along the way they have many zombie-related adventures, all of which are filmed by Debra's boyfriend Jason (or possibly Josh -- I forget), because he's very insistent that everything needs to be captured for posterity: He says some Cloverfieldesque things like "People need to know what's going on." His stubbornness leads to some pretty goofy scenes: Jason won't stop filming to help his friends when they're attacked by zombies, he never expresses a whole lot of surprise at the sight of one, and at one point he risks great physical danger by refusing to move away from the wall plug where his camera is charging. Ostensibly because they're film students, the footage never looks very raw, and that combines with the ridiculousness of Jason's behavior to really, really strain the premise of this film. And it takes some doing to strain the premise of a zombie film. You never quite buy that all this is going on, which is very unfortunate.

Still... there are some good zombie set pieces. I would sit through the whole thing again just for the marvelous Amish sequence. And the zombies look fantastic: we're a long way from Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" with the blue Play-Doh makeup. (We're also a long way from the ridiculously elaborate special effects of "Land of the Dead," with the carefully exposed teeth and the spinal-column removal and all that. These are just good, plain zombies.) I'm on the fence about the zombie-clown sequence, and a fragment toward the end involving an elderly couple is just pointlessly vicious.

Romero breaks up what little action and narrative he has with social commentary, and it's exhausting. I like his point, though: Unlike in "Cloverfield," he refuses to let the cameraman off the hook; if there's a villain in his story, it's Jason (or Josh). He's saying, I think, that the privileged youth of today are so used to absorbing information secondhand that when confronted with something challenging, they can only cope with it secondhand. They're incapable of getting off their asses and dealing with it. The kids in this movie are more doomed than the families in "Night of the Living Dead" or the cops & news crew in "Dawn of the Dead," because at least those people were capable of boarding up windows or flying a helicopter. All these kids can do is film, look for a place with an Internet connection, and upload to YouTube. When the zombies come, please, give me FlyBoy and his helicopter any day.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Art Boy on Gojira

Art Boy and I watched Gojira the other week, largely thanks to Cloverfield. It's pretty good! Of course, we decided to turn it into an Event and watch it over gyoza and sake bombs, and because we've gotten old and gentle, the sake bombs pretty much had us sacked out on the couch before we'd even seen an hour of the movie. (Art Boy: "If this were Cloverfield, we'd have passed out during the party scene.") Anyway, the next night we watched the whole thing and it was pretty damn cool. I've been trying to formulate something intelligent to say about it but Art Boy beat me to it. So go read his thoughts. He's smart and funny.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Vote, lambkins

If you live in California or another Super Tuesday state, remember to stop by your polling place today. (In CA, you can call (800) 345-VOTE or go here to find out where.) Whether you fancy Obama or the lady, or one of the Republicans, this is a big day and every vote counts. Now scoot!

Friday, February 01, 2008


The NYT has a nice story on the pit bulls rescued from Michael Vick's dogfighting kennels, the majority of whom ended up at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah. Art Boy sponsors a kitty there named Ruby and we have been getting their magazine for about a year. They seem to do really good work. It's just a giant sanctuary with space for lots of animals, many of whom are unadoptable -- Ruby has feline leukemia and can only live with other cats if they have it too. Their website has a section on the Michael Vick dogs, including video, here. It's not too sad, in case you're a softie like me and doesn't want to see animals being sad. They are in pretty good hands now. From the NYT story:

Here, they live in a 3,700-acre sanctuary that is covered by juniper trees and sagebrush, and surrounded by canyons and red-rock formations. They have food called Canine Caviar, squeaky toys, fluffy beds and four full-time caregivers. The caregiver on the night shift curls up with the dogs for naps.


Because the dogs are still adjusting to their surroundings, it is difficult to predict how many of them will become adoptable. They arrived Jan. 2 from Richmond, Va., on a chartered airplane, stressed after eight months in shelters. In initial evaluations last September, many lay flat and looked frightened. Now, many respond to caregivers by wagging their tails and giving sloppy kisses.

So see, this blog isn't all death and stuff. Fluffy animals saved! Hooray!