Friday, July 31, 2009

Me vs. Movies

I have blogged many, many times about my personal love-hate veering towards hate-hate relationship with movies. I grew up watching two genres of movies: classic black and white and color pre-1970 movies and horrible situation comedies from the 1980’s, both of which I worshipped with equal fervor. I probably thought the best movies on the earth when I was a kid where something like Some Like It Hot, the original Cape Fear, To Kill a Mockingbird followed by The Money Pit, Overboard, Short Circuit 2, Ghostbusters 2 (I had a thing for sequels, apparently) and Labyrinth. I have since discovered that my taste in movies came from the fact that my mom essentially stopped watching movies in 1970 and I liked anything my mom liked and, more importantly, we were really poor and couldn’t afford to go to the movies so my access to movies was limited to what local channels played on Sunday afternoons. Hence why I can still recite the entirety of Blind Date, the 1987 “comedy” starring Kim Basinger and Bruce Willis. Yeah, the whole thing. It’s kind of like when you see current footage of people protesting on the streets of some impoverished African nation but one of the kids is wearing a brand new Space Jam t-shirt.

When I watched I Love the 90’s on VH1, I was shocked to realize that I apparently was not alive in the 1990’s, as I knew NOTHING about anything they were talking about. But then when I watched I Love the 80’s, I realized that I had somehow existed in that decade. Which lead me to realize that the 1990’s were my 1980’s. Apparently it’s possible to be so poor that you can miss an entire decade. Let me explain: Every movie discussed in I Love the 80’s eventually became a staple of basic cable or local stations by the 1990’s. So while I didn’t see those movies in their original decade of origin, I would end up seeing them years later on TV and mentally associating them with the 90’s. So as kids raved about something called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I was probably extolling the humorous nuances of Splash. I think maybe this was the foundation of me being so grumpy about movies.

Now I’m an adult and can occasionally scrape together enough pennies and coupons to see movies in the theater. And when I do, it is almost always a letdown. I wasn’t always this way. I worked at the Magnolia when I was 22 and we would get to see all the movies before they premiered at the tech screenings. Usually just a half dozen or so (more often than not, only two or three of us) employees watching whatever was about to come out. And I saw a lot of movies that were either not that bad or fairly good. My friend TJ and I saw 28 Days Later almost a dozen times, I think. I even took my friend Salim and his 9 months pregnant wife to see 28 Days Later, hoping the entire time that the baby would at least wait until the alternate ending after the credits if he decided to make his entrance that night. In short, movies used to be fun to me. Or at least not the ass-beating that they have become.

Then came Juno. Really. I blame it all on one movie. One movie that turned my movie-enjoyment tide. I think I not only hated the movie so much that my friend Chad had to hold my arm so I didn’t leave the theater before the end but I also saw it as a new subgenre that would spawn a million imitations. Twee, self-congratulatory and ultimately a celluloid version of the website My hatred of Juno and Diablo Cody is so well-known that two friends of mine who do not know each other have, completely independently of each other, taken to teasing me with insinuations that I love the movie Juno and that I revere Diablo Cody. It’s hilarious (eye roll).

I also saw The Hangover recently, and though time has dulled my rapier-sharp hatred for the movie, I still can’t say that I enjoyed it. And looking back on it now, I realize that I went into each movie really wanting to like them. I saw Juno the night it opened and saw The Hangover on opening weekend as well, which is extremely rare for me. Were my expectations set so high that no movie would ever reach the bar? Doubtful since I basically expected The Hangover to be two hours of a couple of dudes recounting stories of a rough night of drinking. But maybe all this is a good thing. Maybe the fact that I have severely disliked most of the movies I have seen recently has lowered my expectations and enthusiasm to a reasonable level finally. In fact, take this weekend’s movie outing that my friends and I will be embarking on.

They are going to go see 500 Days of Summer. I will go see Funny People. For some reason, Funny People could literally be two and half hours of Judd Apatow taking a crap into his own hand and then describing it while the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel plays in an endless loop in the background and I will probably still like it. I am an unabashed Judd Apatow enthusiast and I have seen a few specials featuring a lot of the stand-up clips used in the film, 98% of which were really amusing. Maybe I’m setting myself up for failure once again but I somehow doubt it. What I don’t doubt is how much I don’t want to see 500 Days of Summer. You see, my whole “getting burned by seeing cloying, twee or overhyped movies” armor is up on this one. A few years ago, if you told me there was an indie film about a girl who really likes The Smiths, I probably wouldn’t have immediately clenched my fists in rage. I might have even thought, “Hey, I love the Smiths more than any other band on earth too! Maybe I will go see that!”

But no more. I see the words “indie romantic comedy” and I get queasy. I read this:

Tom, the boy, still believes, even in this cynical modern world, in the notion of a transforming, cosmically destined, lightning-strikes-once kind of love. Summer, the girl, doesn’t. Not at all. But that doesn’t stop Tom from going after her, again and again, like a modern Don Quixote, with all his might and courage. Suddenly, Tom is in love not just with a lovely, witty, intelligent woman – not that he minds any of that -- but with the very idea of Summer, the very idea of a love that still has the power to shock the heart and stop the world.

And I get this eye twitch followed by a rumbling in my lower intestines. I haven’t seen 500 Days of Summer yet. It could be great, it could be ok. But for now, I would like to refer to it as Garden State 2: When Earnest Indie Rom Coms Attack. Then again, in ten years when it is showing on Channel 33 on a slow and lazy Saturday afternoon, I might watch it and realize that it’s a pretty good, solid little film. Kind of like I did with Mannequin back in 1991.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Christian Right and The Guardian…Mind If We Have a Little Pow-Wow Right Over Here?

I love reading The Guardian. Their arts and music coverage is unparalleled. Their articles on matters both international and Stateside are always well-informed, well-written and thought provoking. Also, when I am in London, The Guardian is usually the best place to find out what to do on any given night out. I remember hearing David Cross mention something during last year’s election about how sad it was that he had to read newspapers from other countries, such as The Guardian, to get a more accurate portrait of what was happening in his own country. That, sadly, is too often the case. But reading this article from The Guardian made my blood rise to a nice, simmering boil.

I really thought that The Guardian would be above this kind of sensationalist cage rattling. If you’re too lazy to read the link, the premise is: Oh here go those crazy conservative nutty Texans again! Would you believe what they are doing this time? They want to change all the history and science textbooks in the state to include “intelligent design” and God and the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers of the country. Texas is a theocracy and all your liberal hatred can be easily focused with laser precision at the state.

There’s a foundation of truth there. Yes, there are nutty people in Texas (some of whom are in the State Legislature) who want to God up all the textbooks and tattoo the Ten Commandments on the buttocks of all schoolchildren or whatever they want to do. But no more so in Texas than say…



or if you like your facts in scroll-overable picture form, check this out.

Believe it or not, it’s not just Texas or even exclusively Southern states. There are ridiculous people all over this great nation of ours.

But The Guardian must have written this because of some recent development in Texas that, living in Texas, we MUST have heard about. Because every few months, you get a new little wave of poorly-spelled forwards from misguided coworkers or relatives about how you should refuse to use dollar coins because they no longer carry the phrase “In God We Trust”. You sigh and laugh a little and hit delete and go on with your life, knowing that everything is going to be alright. When you read the Guardian piece, it turns out that is all this is. Maybe The Guardian caught onto this late and think that this is some kind of news or that the empty threats of forced religious public education are real. Don’t worry Guardian, come over here and let me give you a hug and little pat on the head. These people are what you would call “nutters” and this is a big state so we’ve got plenty of them.

In fact, hold on. The one you featured, whose name and existence was so mysterious to me that I had to Google him to find out who/what/why he was, is someone named Reverend Peter Marshall. So you’re implying that he’s got something to do with a pro-religion education movement here in Texas? Well, I Googled him and found his (excuse the lack of a better term here) crazy-ass website. Yeah, he’s a nutter. You said in your article that he blames Hurricane Katrina and the US losing in Vietnam on sexual promiscuity and homosexuality. Wow. Yeah, I wish people would have stopped sodomizing each other long enough to make Hurricane Katrina turn and hit Cuba like Baby Jesus wanted to happen. But you just HAD to do your sodomy, you sodomites!

Anyways, yeah, the guy is batshit crazy. And hang on…what’s this? He’s also based out of Massachusetts. In case you aren’t too familiar with US geography, Massachusetts is a) not in Texas and b) largely considered a very liberal state in the big scary liberal Northeast. So you’re telling me that the guy who The Guardian tells us is in some way related to a campaign to force references to God into the textbooks of Texas schoolchildren is not, as you are lead to believe in the article, from Texas, based in Texas or has any kind of connection with the state?

Because if the goal of the article was to find nutters in America who stand in the proverbial town square with a sandwich board, a cowbell and hastily scrawled flyers about the end of times or a conspiracy that Quizno’s and Subway are actually the same thing, you can really throw a dart at the internet and find something good and crazy. And speaking of throwing darts, I liked the last little kick to the junk you gave Texans at the end of your article. You know, the part about “There's no doubt that history education needs a boost in Texas. According to test results, one-third of students think the Magna Carta was signed by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower and 40% believe Lincoln's 1863 emancipation proclamation was made nearly 90 years earlier at the constitutional convention.” That’s right, we’re all a bunch of Jaywalkers who should not be allowed to use scissors that are not of the safety, rounded tip variety. Oh wait, that happens on your side of the ocean too!

And now a note to Peter Marshall. You see, when you do things like spew hatred and generally just exist, you give them ammunition. I know you can’t hear any of this over the sound of Money Jesus telling you to go out and spread more of the Good Word at crazy, discount prices. But let’s be honest for a second. You’re a snake oil salesman. You’re no different from

this guy who wants to help me have a pure colon


these people who want to help me cleanse the toxins out of my body with their Swiffer pad foot stickers

or even

the awesomely named Clint Stonebraker who has all kinds of personal motivation he can offer me if I just keep him on a $300 monthly retainer.

The only difference between these people and you, Peter Marshall, is that they surely don’t receive tax-exempt status or abuse people’s religious faith or fear for their own profit. They just want to get all the booze and cheeseburgers I have eaten in my life out of my body through my feet. But you offer visitors to your website the answer to “Restoring America” with the Restoring America Deluxe Package (a $170 value) is available for $149 with FREE shipping)! Maybe they are instead interested in “America’s Christian Heritage”? Well, there’s good news for them as long as they have a credit card, debit card, checking account or access to obtaining a money order. Per your website: >"America's Christian Heritage Package (a $60 value) is available for $50 with FREE shipping.”

I assume the free shipping is Ground and I can pay extra for expedited, pre-Rapture delivery?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Viva la Corruption!

Dude, get me the eff out of this country. I am in Mexico and I would like to not be in Mexico anymore. Here's the deal. We got to the airport three hours early for our flight due to reasons beyond our control. We got to the check in desk and they said my mom needed some special card (no explanation why) and that she would have to go to ONE CERTAIN bank downtown to pay a cashier and get a receipt to bring back to the airport to get the card to go through immigration and make our flight which is chronologically impossible. Homedude Immigration guy was cute(ish) so I asked to talk to him in a private office then got all girly (am wearing low cut halter dress because my entire body is one big sunburn) and doing the puppy eyes thing friends make fun of me for doing and asked him if he could pretty please help us out with two twenty dollar bills in my hand. He (and I am not even joking) patted my head and said "for you, I go to the bank later today to take care of it. Give me the money and I will give you the card she needs" and then fucking put his hand on my shoulder. Whatever, it worked and we're at the gate now waiting to find out what new creative ways Mexico has in mind for fucking with us. My poor mom was sobbing outside immigration but the good news is that I am now the most badass, officials-bribing daughter of all time. One particularly debauched St. Patrick's Day with my friend Chrissy ended with me screaming I was a "good daughter!!!!!!" Prophecy fufilled. I know it's 105 at home right now but I am covered in heat rash and sunburn and I haven't brushed my hair in two days. Seriously, get me the eff out of here.