Six Things I Can’t Live Without

August 1, 2011

Friend and sex writer Harmony Eichsteadt just posted a blog on how to answer the “6 Things I Could Never Do Without” question on your OKCupid profile. I commented with my six things, which you can read here. Three of them have to do with my chosen profession.


The Day the Movies Died … Or Not

February 23, 2011

Today I saw this article from GQ on the state of the movie industry.

Well written article, except that the argument is complete hogwash. The author spends all this time spouting cynically that Hollywood’s not greenlighting good movies, while listing all the good movies that Hollywood’s putting out.

With the arguable exceptions of day trading and venture capitalism, making movies is just about the closest you can come to gambling and say that you’re “a business.” ┬áSo Hollywood is just like any smart gambler: you hedge your bets, do a lot of safe stuff, and take a few calculated risks. Sometimes those risks pay off. Most of the time they don’t. So the safe stuff becomes your bread and butter. Get the heck over it.
And one other thing: this whole complaint people have about the “good old days” is utter crap. They made just as many bad movies in the 1980s, and the 70s, and the 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s, 20s, and teens as they do today. We just don’t remember the ones that sucked.

 


15 Movies

September 2, 2009

Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen movies you’ve seen that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me because I’m interested in seeing what movies my friends choose.

To do this, go to your Notes tab on your (Facebook) profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note — upper right hand side. I hope you participate, even if you didn’t get tagged!

  1. Th Shawshank Redemption
  2. The Usual Suspects
  3. The Dark Knight
  4. High Fidelity
  5. Natural Born Killers
  6. Grosse Point Blank
  7. Moulin Rouge!
  8. Juno
  9. The Princess Bride
  10. Seven Pounds
  11. Chasing Amy
  12. The Crow
  13. Dave
  14. Don Juan de Marco
  15. What the Bleep do We Know?

Review of Oliver Stone’s “W”

October 17, 2008

I’m at the Austin Film Festival this week, and I had the pleasure of seeing what I believe is one of the first ever screenings of Oliver Stone’s new film, “W.”

The short version of this review: as long as you go into it with the understanding that it is a work of fiction, it’s a very entertaining and interesting movie. If you go into it thinking it’s an accurate representation of history, you’re screwed.

I believe Oliver Stone has created his own genre over the past few decades. Let’s call it “modern historical fiction.” Or, as a friend of mine referred to it, “instant nostalgia.” Many believed, at the time, that what he did to Nixon and JFK – fictionalizing historical events and passing it off as fact – was cold and unethical. And viewed from that perspective, they’d be right.

But the thing is he’s done it so much – not just with Nixon and JFK but with the Doors, World Trade Center (I’m making an assumption on that one – haven’t actually seen that movie) and now our soon-to-be-ex-President – that there’s no way it can just be an accident.

If this were a work of complete fiction about characters we never knew, then “W.” would be marvelous. You see what makes a guy like this go after the top job in the country. You see all the trials and tribulations of a silver-spoon-fed boy who’s never lived up to the expectations of his father or the success of his brother, desperately seeking approval from someone, anyone. You see how a real human being lives his life before and during his presidency, the mistakes he makes and his successes and failures.

You see into the soul of his father’s presidency, and how that plays into the decision to go take out “the enemy” and “do it right this time.” You see a group of people first convince themselves that a war in Iraq is the right move, and then go after the evidence to prove their ill-formed hypothesis.

And you see the way that the miserable failure of that war crushes the spirit of this bumbling fool, whom we’ve come to love in the same way we love Forrest Gump or The Joker.

But on the other side of this story is a disturbing fact: it’s all bullshit.

Every one of Bush’s cabinet members received a laugh at their first appearance, and the actors playing Karl Rove and Condaleeza Rice are nothing but caricatures of the people they’re meant to represent – particularly the latter. We see fights that may or may not have happened and relationships that may or may not bear any resemblance to the truth. The President is shamelessly mocked in every conceivable fashion: every “Bushism” you know and love is said, but in a venue we know he didn’t say them; we see him waking up in his underwear and wiping his ass in the toilet; we get to delve into his fantasies, in which he stands in an empty baseball field, soaks in imagined cheers, and catches an imagined fly ball to deep center field.

In short, we get to see propaganda that shows Bush, Jr as the bumbling fool we and the media have always pictured him to be.

(Keep in mind, I’m not trying to defend the President, his administration, or any decisions there made. I’m simply criticizing a movie for what it is. Though the message of this propaganda will no doubt prove popular, given the scapegoat’s approval ratings, keep in mind that Jews were no more popular when Nazi propaganda was circulating. Judge the presidency on its own merits, not on the public portrayal of him.)

If we step back again and return to my initial hypothesis – that Stone has created his own genre – we can reconcile the dichotomy between these two very distinct aspects of the film. It is fiction, based on actual historical events. Always know that Stone’s job, first and foremost, is to put butts in seats. In order to do that, his job is to entertain, and if we can step back and recognize the film as entertainment, we can look at it for the exercise this film is in how a character carries out his motivations. Failing to look at it from this perspective is, I hope, to misunderstand the artistic vision of the director, who, let’s face it, has done this enough times and drawn enough criticism to have corrected the problem now, if he wanted to.

“W.” is a controversial film, and with good reason. It’s definitely worth watching. Just take care not to get sucked into the machine.


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