Monday, June 30, 2008

Expired


Director Cecilia Miniucchi's "Expired" is an exercise in romantic pathos of the darkest kind, exploring the human need for connection in the most desperate of situations.

Samantha Morton's Claire is the indie archetype idealist, a parking attendant who romanticizes the lives of parking violators as she lives vicariously through them, compensating for the empty existence she lives with her stroke afflicted mother, played by Teri Garr. Jason Patric's Jay, Claire's emotionally disturbed romantic foil, is anti-socially maladjusted, deriving pleasure from antagonized motorists and prurient proclivities.



Much of "Expired" plays not like a conventional romcom or dramedy of the highest order, but is more like watching a neglected child who continues to stick the fork in the socket; one who knows the painful outcome but prefers the anticipated pain and damage to complacency.

Morton and Patric make an interesting enough pair onscreen, with Morton's saccharine desperation matched by Patric's pathological aversion to intimacy. Yet while there are funny moments created by their lonely interactions, the repetitive nature of their hot and cold interplay can leave a lot to be desired.


"Expired" is dark, and unflinching in its willingness to make its audience squirm at the masochist nature of their pairing. At times, Morton's too sweet, too desperate, too pathetic and Patric's insecure misogynistic misanthrope can be too difficult to empathize with or stomach.



While it strives to be an indictment of the sometimes desperate qualities of love, it struggles to find a resounding resolution to the problem it posits.

If we are desperate for human connection to the point of settling for anything, even if that something denigrates us, and doesn't bring any real pleasure beyond the security of not being alone, is it worth it? Even as this film expires, one does not know.

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Some Things Are Better Left Un-Covered

Jay reminds us why "Wonderwall" is indeed as annoying as you once remembered it:



And Snoop...shit, S-N-double O-P D-O double-giz-ee D-O double-giz-ee can do whatever the fuck he wants.

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PRIDE Be Damned


"They could have any other day...they could be all gay any other day. God, I used to like gay people; why do they have to do this to me on my day? Why does it have to be my day?! Why? Why? Why?!"

-Thirty-something birthday girl complete with sash and tiara tearfully complaining as Gay Pride Parade on 5th Avenue obstructs her path to bar.


"Uh, excuse me honey, you're blocking my path,"

-Approximately 6'8 (in heels) 'Beauty Queen' adorned in glittery gold and pink charmeuse and robe.

"Oh, and shut the fuck up."

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Smoker's Droop is So Scary It Makes Me Want to Smoke


Allow me a moment of full disclosure: I used to smoke.

Not because it was sexy, or cool looking, or a great way to spark up idle conversation outside a bar with a prospective evening encounter (all of which is true) but because I genuinely loved the taste, the feel, the je ne sais quoi of it all.

The smooth flavor from a newly opened pack of Reds making contact with your lips...the first drag you take while watching your cigarette illuminate the night sky...and the almost wistful feeling one has having reached the butt end of one, only to long for the alluring taste of yet another one...ahhh.


Yet for all intensive purposes, I lacked the credentials to be a fully fledged member of the Marlboro mafia. My parents didn't smoke, most of my friends didn't smoke, I didn't grow up in a neighborhood of smokers and spent most of my childhood disgusted by even the slightest whiff of secondhand smoke. Christ, even my first few girlfriends hated smokers (which is probably why I picked up the habit of compulsive chaining in dark alleyways and abandoned garages).

I was not the prototypical young smoker enticed by the inherent aesthetic allure. I genuinely just loved their texture, their taste.

Which is why it's strange for me to feel sad about commemorating the one year anniversary of my last cigarette. It's like paying respects to an old friend,(coupled with the anxiousness of having one's libido go cold turkey for seemingly eternity) if your old friend wasn't dead but actually alive and always in front of you, yet unable to hear or feel you (sort of like Patrick Swayze in "Ghost" sans the awkward Whoopi-Demi kiss).


Unlike my fellow smoking brethren, I never truly got to enjoy a "public" smoking life, always hiding my compulsive smoking shame under shrouds of hypocritical admonishment. I even joined and eventually became a leader of an anti-smoking youth group, preaching the Good anti-Philip Morris Word at various elementary/high schools and going so far as filming a crappy school commercial (though admittedly my intentions for joining the group were more female inspired than altruistic- God, that girl was fine).

But then the cliched cavalcade of health problems emerged: wheezing, heart palpitations, coughing up blood, the inability to endure more than four minutes of foreplay without feeling like I'd run the New York marathon; it was as if my beloved cancer sticks were conspiring to kill me in one flailing swoop.

And so it is today I celebrate my emancipation from the tyranny of my beloved smokes, watching smoking passersby with a lustful eye and reminiscing about memories of smoke filled melancholy mornings and naughty nicotine nights.

To commemorate the occasion (and convince myself not to knock on Mr. Marlboro's door), here's a series of ads from Australia's Action on Smoking and Health, which effectively attempts to strike the fear of impotence or the condition "smoker's droop" into the hearts (and groins) of Aussie smokers:












All you smokers out there- light up one for me, please? (God, even secondhand smoke is starting to smell good).

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Friday, June 27, 2008

This Year's Savior of the Knicks is...a C*ck?


New York Knicks first round draft pick Danilo Gallinari apparently is nicknamed "the Cock," already has a new line of Reebok "Rooster sneakers" on the way, and according to some experts:

"isn't going to be a superstar"
"lacks foot speed"
"doesn't play well defensively"
"is under weight"
"uses his hands too much"
but "has range and a mean streak"
(apparently 'mean streak' is a new necessity in today's Tim Duncan nice guy dominant NBA).


Is it disconcerting that this rich man's Jorge Garbajosa looks like a destitute vagrant's Josh Harnett?


Somehow I doubt Gallinari will inspire Knick fans to create fan vids mashing his awkward athleticism with Chris Brown songs.



Suddenly, free gas is starting to look real good.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Sure Do Love Them Eggrolls of Yours- Now What's This Natural Disaster Thingy?


Bush To Filipino President: "I Am Reminded Of The Great Talent Of The -- Of Our Philippine-Americans When I Eat Dinner At The White House" (Via)

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cody ChesnuTT Makes The Heart Grow Fonder


The new, gloriously funky "Afrobama: The Unified Party Anthem"

The understated "King of the Game"



The one song that makes me privately strut in my leather jacket



And sadly, the only thing besides "The Seed 2.0" many people may know him for

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sarkar Raj


After inadvertently exposing my younger sibling to the distinctive worlds of sexy stoners and dead Romanian fetuses, I let him pick a film for our recent brotherly bonding outing, much to my ballyhooed Bollywood joy.

"Sarkar Raj" a sequel to a successful precursor, "Sarkar" (an homage to Coppola's "The Godfather") is a slick, stylized crime film that comes with all the bells and whistles of your customary drama, albeit set in India.


I'm far from being adequately capable of waxing poetic about the nuances of Bollywood film, but "Sarkar Raj" was a visually interesting and fun film for the most part, from the attractiveness of the cast, to the Michael Mann-ish flourishes in cinematography and tone.


Seeing the interplay between real life husband and wife Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan and Abhishek's father Amitabh Bachchan was a fun dynamic, sort of an Indian Brangelina, if Pitt and Jolie made an ill-fated "Mr. and Mrs. Smith II", with Jon Voight as a curmudgeonly dark overlord.



For the brave: a bootleg, sans subtitles.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

"I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I'm listening to it."


"Honesty may be the best policy, but it's important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy."


I am never effected by the death of a celebrity. They're famous, they're distant, and for the most part, I tend to believe that no one has any business equating celebrity fandom or admiration with actually knowing the real person in question.

That said, I'm surprised by just how saddened I am by the sudden passing of George Carlin. It's not like I knew him, or ever had a conversation with him, but my love of his work can't be understated.

The man was smart, engaging, cantankerous, opinionated, and always, always innovative. His playful manipulation of diction, rhythm, stream of consciousness and gravitas has become a guideline for every wannabe comic out there. And for disciples of the idiom that is "truth in comedy," Carlin's ability to create public joy from private pain is a blueprint all comedians and writers could only hope to someday get close to mastering.

Carlin is definitely up there with Pryor in the Mount Rushmore of comedic greatness, always making you think, question, and wonder; all while eliciting more laughter than one should legally be allowed.

Via LA Times

And now, the customary tribute to the work that will continue to ripple and reverberate with every writer, comedian, or kid that happens to wonder why laughing makes the pain feel almost good...

The Famous Seven Words You Can't Say on Television



An early impersonation of JFK



The beloved distinction between 'Baseball & Football'



An indictment of White people



"Touched By An Atheist"



"At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom."


"A Good Bullshit Story"



Making Kevin Smith movies bearable



Always the candid interview





A legend indeed.


"Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck."


UPDATE: Louis C.K.'s thoughtful remembrance.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stuff White People Like: Pregnancy Pacts


In Gloucester last week, there was both shame and scorn as officials questioned the nature of the “pact” and teenagers shrugged their shoulders at a scandal that many seemed to view as the inevitable consequence of growing up bored.

“When you live in Gloucester, there’s nothing else to do but have babies,” sighed Josua Medeiros, 17, as he lounged on a bench near a town beach.
-The Times Online



Nuff said.

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Pinkie Swear


When I was six, I made a pact with a friend of mine that if neither of us were with someone by the age of twenty-one, we'd get hitched. We pinkie sweared. Obviously the marital logic of first graders leaves something to be desired, but I was six, and she was my first crush.

Two years past the deadline of our supposed pact, and it's funny to see how completely logical getting married at age twenty one seemed at the time. Apparently the inherent fear of lifelong solitude every single mid to late thirty-something feels crept early into our pre-adolescent psyches. Or maybe we were just bored.

I ran into her recently (much to my disappointing dismay) and had the following exchange:

Her: "Oh my god, hey you!"

Me: "Oh shit, , hi." (Being caught off guard by an acquaintance from the past while drinking coffee in a dimly lit corner while consciously hiding in one's disheveled hoodie is not the type of renewed impression one wants to make. Though she did look pretty good.)

Her: "Oh my god honey, I was totally thinking about you the other day. How are you?" (It should be noted that her penchant for using "oh my god" in every conversation was something I thought was cute at age six. At twenty-three, not so much.)

Me: "I'm doing...uh, okay. You know, the usual stuff, writing, and breathing, and living, and shit...(I seem to always unintentionally throw on "and shit" towards every 'stop and chat' with old acquaintances from where I grew up in Queens. Maybe it makes me feel like I'm still keeping it real. Or maybe I'm just overcompensating.)


Her: "Haha, 'and shit.' You so funny...you always were funny.(Oh yes, that too.) So what's up with everything else? You look great.(If by 'great' she meant 'unwashed vagrant-like' then yes.) You seeing anybody? Get married or anything? Haha."

Me: "Uh, no, nothing serious. I don't see himself getting married anytime soon...or ever."

At this point, her loud, Cheshire cat grin appeared to fade somewhat.

Her: "Oh, yeah, I feel you. I was just talking with some girlfriends of mine about you. Remember our pact? How we promised to get married if we were still single at 21?"

Me: "Oh, yeah, I remember. (At the moment, I did not) That was a longtime ago...it's funny how silly we were when we were kids."

She actually seemed visibly disappointed that I didn't remember. A long painfully awkward pause. She continued looking at me, while I watched an elderly man with a cane make a Herculean effort to open the restroom door. Silence. Was she still looking at me? Slight glance out of the corner of my eye: yes, she was still looking at me. This is why I should never go outside and why I need to buy a goddamn coffee maker.


Me: "So...(I stood up and attempted to leave even though I had just sat down moments ago to enjoy my coffee.) I should go..."

Her: "You know, I really kinda miss you. (Totally out of left field. If my disheveled vagrant insomniac state could have mustered any energy at that moment, I might have raised my eyebrows in surprise. Instead I yawned.) I always kinda had a thing for you, and now everything's all screwed up...with me and Matt...and oh my god, my job...and my parents...and oh my god I didn't even tell you about my son..."

Me: "Oh, you have a son? That's great." (I honestly was not trying to be sarcastic. Things just automatically come out in asshole)

Her: "No, no it's not. It's horrible, it's horrible, cause I didn't want him and it's horrible cause he's a good boy, but I never wanted him...oh my god, things would be so much better if I was with someone who had his shit together like you." (Evidence of crack usage was apparent at this point. Or maybe she was legally blind, like Gov. Patterson and could only partially observe the hobo-chic I was adorned in.)

Me: "I'm sure everything will work itself out for the better. We all go through trying times, but eventually we find the right path and the right light at the end of a really shitty tunnel. Besides, I've always remembered you to be a good, strong, levelheaded person (I did not) and I know you'll find a way to make everything work. You're a good, beautiful person; always remember that." (I'm pretty certain I was regurgitating some crackpot advice I heard while drunkenly flipping through channels in a desperate search for something interesting. Or pornographic. Or both.)


Her: "God, you are so right, you are always so right-"

Me: "I actually go anyway, gotta meeting to run off to (For all intensive purposes, I'm perpetually in a meeting) Nice catching up. You got a Facebook or MySpace or something, right? Anyway, yeah, bye."

(In my attempt to rush out, I stumble slightly, my right foot half asleep while my left foot catching the wheel of what was now clearly a baby stroller. Her baby stroller, complete with sleeping baby inside. How my peripheral vision missed this is also how I was once able to blatantly not notice an ex-girlfriend sitting beside on an hour long train ride without noticing or acknowledging her presence. This is why I'm alone and need to buy a coffee maker.)

Her: "It was really nice seeing you. I'll definitely hit you up."

She made an initial advance towards hugging me, but my swift, drunken stumble that almost killed her sleeping child seemed like an adequate good bye to me.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

She's So Hot She's Making Me Sexist

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I don't usually get hyped about basic cable programs concerned with the internalizations of self absorbed, sexist, racist white people with nonexistent minority casts...but goddamn, I love me some "Mad Men."

Here's hoping for another great season, despite that ridiculous "surprise pregnancy" cliffhanger. Jon Hamm is magic, John Slattery is hilarious, and Christina Hendricks makes me almost wish it was on HBO.



Yum.

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Managing is Fleeting, but Commercials are Forever

I'm making my first of several trips to the wonder that is Chi-town, and adverts like these only build my excitement:



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Sidenote: Is it sad that the only thing Met fans can universally rally around in recent weeks is how "class-less" Randolph's firing was? Maybe I'm just biased cause he gave the commencement speech at my graduation, but either way, Willie seems like a good guy, and I'm somewhat going to miss the bland "nice guy-ity" tandem of Torre and Randolph.



Eating unhealthily at Subway will never be the same.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

FREE GAS!!! (*with the purchase of season tickets for a mediocre basketball team in New Jersey! =)

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Who knew a sports franchise co-owned by Jay-Z would have the marketing panache of the Ying Yang Twins?

That new Brooklyn arena can't come fast enough.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The problem with thongs...

I haven't been around much but this was too good to pass up:



really?

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jury Duty Drives People to Actually Play Sudoku


Personally I'm more of a crossword type of guy, but whatever floats your boat...or wastes $1 million in taxpayers' money on a mistrial.

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Journalism Takes Another Hit


When I was a young kid, I used to be annoyed by the glaring absence of decent Sunday morning cartoons (during my pre-cable days) and somehow found myself watching a mixture of Meet the Press and the McLaughlin Group, the former because that Tim Russert guy seemed intense and serious, which piqued my interest as to what made each conversation carry a feeling of catastrophic weight, and the latter because even an eight year-old can find mindless bickering among pundits and a septuagenarian inexplicably amusing.

Yet as I got older, and became more socially conscious and increasingly cynical of the explosion of 24 hour news outlets and the onslaught of mind numbing punditry, I always found myself intrigued by Mr. Russert, not because of the generic "comfort zone" that older generations develop with anchors they were taught to trust, but because he talked to people with a straight forward, bitingly direct approach that even the most polarizing politico can't help but admire.



Every young aspiring journalist initially aspires to be the inquisitive objective reporter they're taught to be, but eventually, years of inherent cynicism, opportunistic favoritism, and the plight of popular punditry undermines the idealism of objectivity, giving way to lazing journalism, and inept indifference.



Yet with Mr. Russert, it always seemed he genuinely did care to the story right, get the facts right, and in the end, make sure we all got a sense of what was right, irregardless of where one lay on the political spectrum.

Rest in Peace Mr. Russert, the eight year-old inside of me will miss not having an alternative to John McLaughlin's scowls while the adult today mourns for the passing of a damn good journalist.

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Celebrities Are Obnoxious Winners Just Like the Rest of Us


Entering the fray of celebrity sponsored social networking/online competition is Renaissance man and Wu-Tang Clan founding member RZA's WuChess, an online chess and hip hop community networking site that actually looks like some honest to goodness fun.

And who says the worlds of Bobby Fisher and Big Daddy Kane have to be mutually exclusive? (Actually that would be a pretty sweet match up, not so much for the chess part, but for the Big Daddy Kane beating the racist chess genius with a pimp cane part.)


Either way, WuChess should be an improvement over the exhilaratingly dull game play of Yahoo Chess, or better yet, the celebrity whorefest that is IBeatYou, the Baron Davis/Jessica Alba approved "competitive social networking" site that's degenerated into a makeshift HotorNot/Friendster site with the unoccassional shameless plug:



"Oh hey, I can't go the premiere of my great (shitty) new movie 'the Love Guru' (cause I'm preggers and have better things to do than watch horrifically awful films that I get paid lots of money to be hot in) but now you can try to get my tickets to the premiere (that I will be nowhere near) by competing in your own Guru competition. Get it? 'Be Your Own Guru' cause it's the 'Love Guru'? Sigh...now when am I filming that 'Awake' sequel?"

UPDATE: It was just brought to my attention that the above video that once featured new mother Alba has now been replaced with a vid of a couple's entry for the Guru contest featuring a heartbreakingly sweet/sad couple separated by service time in Iraq...making my comments below appear insensitive, if not outright shitty. So due to an embed video snafu, I am indeed an asshole, and yes, Ms. Alba, uBeatMe.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Virile Deficiency


Unbridled masculinity is usually the Brown Cary Grant's expertise, but on a weekend dominated by the media matriarchal maelstrom that is "Sex and the City" I couldn't help but provide an alternative for my fellow male brethren who feel the need to 'man up' following a girlfriend induced viewing of this two and a half hour spectacle. (Somehow I know I'll find myself hatewatching it, and I was even tempted to join the masses of ill-spirited spoiler folk. But I'll leave the horse comparisons and venomous inquisition to the experts.)

Now onto manning up:


"Bigger, Stronger, Faster*(*The Side Effects of Being American)" is an engaging, thoughtful and introspective dissection of American steroid culture. Hilarious, warm, and surprisingly affecting, unassuming director Christopher Bell's first documentary is arguably the most even-handed and intelligent study of the mainstream perception of steroids, sports, and the unrelenting American desire to manifest destiny by whatever means (be they natural or chemical) necessary. Bolstered by a Spurlockian accessibility that balances the personal with the informative, " "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" succeeds in being thought provoking while being limitlessly entertaining.

Bell's role as the inquisitive idealist torn by moral quandary and beleaguered by brothers bulking up posits us with the perfect protagonist. Unlike fellow "pop-documentary" directors who use their accessible sense of humor to 'pulpitize' their personal politics (too often too left or too right), Bell takes a modest, non-judgemental, though still effectively aggressive approach. Bell's world of deified heroes tarnished by the reality of chemical enhancement is an eviscerating indictment of the American ideal, personified by the detached celebrity of over paid athletes and the harsh humility of family members coming to grips with a dream deferred.

A wonderful achievement of informative introspection and male inadequacy, "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" is better than its supposed to be; and we're all the better for it.



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This year's little indie comedy that could, "The Foot Fist Way" trades on the cache of awkward, uncomfortable humor and takes it as far as humanly possible. Adding to the pantheon of likably unlikable male leads (i.e. Gervais' David Brent) Danny McBride's Fred Simmons, is surly, self absorbed, petty, insecure, and pathetic: all the makings of a perfect alpha male archetype. To that end, McBride plays Simmons with unrelenting machismo, channeling the youthful hero worship of the aforementioned Bell's wrestling heroes with naive tunnel vision.

Hanging on the thinest of plot lines, "Foot Fist Way" is essentially a showcase for McBride, whose onscreen presence is repulsively enticing, whether he's berating tae kwon do hangers on, mortgaging his savings for the sake of having a 5th rate Chuck Norris knockoff appear at his class or awkwardly propositioning a female pupil; it's cringe inducing hilarity of the highest of lowest orders. Promoted as a potential "Napoleon Dynamite," "Foot Fist Way" is not as quote-worthy or sweet natured, but is darker and more tragic to a degree; while Dynamite delights with quirky individuality, Simmons is unrepentant.

As we root for Dynamite while embracing his awkwardness, we laugh at Simmons, for being the unmistakably familiar asshole we all know and love to not love.




John Cusack revisits his assassin aspirations in "War, Inc.", a well intentioned, but disjointed dark political satire. Tackling the sociopolitical issues of the current Iraq war, weapons profiteering, and commercial domestic indifference, "War, Inc." is buoyed by an interesting premise that gradually gets bogged down by a listless script that loses focus and doesn't seem to know whether it wants to take itself seriously. A cavalcade of stars join Cusack in his pursuit to skewer the hypocrisy of the current administration, with deliciously over the top performances by his sister Joan, Dan Aykroyd, and Ben Kingsley, an understated romantic/comedic turn by Marisa Tomei, and a surprising appearance by popular former jailbait Hilary Duff, who appears to have fulfilled every fan boy and middle aged Humbert Humbert enthusiast's fantasy by portraying a salty tongued slutty Central Asian pop star.

On the surface, it would look like a fun mix of characters to satirize the war, but the few fleeting funny moments are undermined by longwinded moments of exposition to set up jokes that fall flat, and extended sequences of violence create an inconsistent tone throughout the nearly two hour running time. For such an ambitious attempt at satire, "War, Inc." feels half empty, lost in a plot that appears to haphazardly throw an ending together while losing focus on the very subject matter it intends to critique and degenerating into a second rate action movie.

"War, Inc." plays more like an experiment in desperate need of a better script, better editing, and maybe a reminder that the key to a good comedy satire is actually being funny.

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