Monday, February 22, 2010

Why Do I Hate Movies So Much?

(Warning: I don’t actually hate movies. I’ve watched approximately 7 of them in the past 48 hours. The title of this entry is an exaggeration to get attention. Kind of.)

Alright, we’ve already established how much I loathe the movie-going experience. It’s not transcendental to me. It’s not a two hour escape from my worries. It’s borderline excruciating. I hate to rehash old material (note: no I don’t) but to be trapped in a dark theater with the general population to watch a movie which I have no guarantees will actually entertain me is neck-and-neck with watching a movie on a transatlantic flight seated between two Kevin James’s and directly in front of the rear lavatory. Actually, now that I think about it, at least at the end of a transatlantic flight you will be in some foreign city with adventures awaiting you. Leaving the movie theater only means stepping over stale popcorn and sticky soda residue on the long trek out to your car.

This is all very ironic because one of the biggest parties of the year is the Oscars party that my friends Philip and Holly throw at their house. There’s betting sheets and a large cash pot to be won at the end of the night. The fact that I have come in second for the past two years, while frustrating, is a testament to my ability to blindly guess correct answers. See, on any given Oscar night, I have MAYBE seen one of the nominated films. Last year, 3:10 to Yuma was the only Oscar nominated movie I had actually seen. The year before that? I had seen a whopping TWO nominees. As a side note, that same year was the year that we learned that if you are ever betting on the Oscars and get stuck on the Best Sound Effect or Best Editing and there has been a Bourne movie out that year (Ultimatum, Supremacy or otherwise), bet on that. Also, for costume awards always pick the period piece with the frilliest costumes.

That’s not to say that I didn’t bluff my way through my ballot sheet. I talked about how hard it would be to choose between Sean Penn’s hauntingly on-point portrayal of slain San Francisco mayor and gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk and Mickey Rourke’s comeback turn in The Wrestler. It was especially difficult considering I had seen neither movie. To my credit, I saw Milk a few weeks after the Oscars and it blew me away. I’m glad Sean Penn won though I had no actual reason to vote for him a few weeks prior. I saw The Wrestler a month ago. Also a good movie.

So I can’t watch movies in theaters. That’s ok, there’s always renting them. Except I canceled my Netflix membership due to the laziness that lead to me keeping movies (unwatched) for months at a time. And I don’t like going into Blockbuster because my inner Premiere Video snob screams to be let out. WHAT? You don’t have Mike Leigh’s Naked available for rental? No copies of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion? Someone should burn this place to the ground! Sadly, Premiere Video is also aware of my laziness when it comes to returning movies and therefore they have regretfully decided to not rent movies to me any longer. I can’t say that I blame them. I wouldn’t rent movies to me either.

Then my mom, of all people, hipped me to the magic of just downloading any movies that you might have wanted to see a few years ago, want to see now(ish) or plan on eventually seeing sometime in the future. In the interest of keeping whoever that is that puts those legalese warnings at the beginning of DVDs about movie trademarks happy, I will insist that this is all legal, paid-for downloads. So I followed suit. I loaded up my download queue with all the movies I never got around to seeing over the last two years and threw in the few movies I did see in the theater to see if watching them in the safety, comfort and unstickyness of my home affected my opinion of them. And they kept piling up. Before I knew it, I had twenty-odd movies to watch. And that’s when I realized: I just don’t think I like watching movies.

Blame it on our instant gratification inter-webual society (that’s a thing). Blame it on my lifelong non-love of reading fiction (I can watch documentaries until my eyes bleed and I realize I’ve been up for three days straight). But it takes A LOT for me to get sucked into a movie. And if I don’t get sucked in during that critical 30-minute opening window, all is lost. And even if I do get sucked in, if the movie starts dragging 2/3rds of the way through, I have no sense of perseverance. It’s easier than it should be for me to throw my hands up and just turn the movie off. There’s no nagging sense of curiosity on my part as to how it ends . There’s no sense of duty to finish the movie just to say that I saw it. If I watch 2/3rds of a movie and can’t make it through, I consider my task completed and will discuss the movie as if I have seen the whole thing as long as no one asks me what I thought of the ending. And if they do, you can always win any argument with a simple, understated “meh, whatever.”

I think a lot of this has to do with the EXTREMELY narrow window of movie genres I tend to enjoy. No, I don’t issue sweeping dismissals of entire genres blindly. I will try to watch a movie of any genre. As I said, you could probably make a documentary on the life of an herb garden in a kitchen window sill and I would watch it. But when you start talking action, romantic comedy, Pixar, superheroes, espionage thrillers…I just…..get…….sleepy. Special effects and computer generated monsters leave me cold. A wacky case of mistaken identity that leads to a beachfront marriage despite all the odds makes me want to eat glass. I’m sure there are exceptions for all of these but generally speaking, I don’t like talking animated cars or people jumping out of helicopters into collapsing buildings or cloying romantic plot lines.

So, uh, yeah. Back to why I wrote all of this. I decided that this weekend would be the weekend I would try my best to plow through my stash of downloaded movies. And the results were as follows:

The Hangover – I saw this in the theater and my hatred for it could barely be contained. I now realize that the audience had a lot to do with my initial dislike of the movie. Too many, “Ohhhhh no they didn’t!”s or “Ohhhhh shit, that Chinese guy is naked!!!!!”s. I’ve actually watched it a few times since I downloaded it and while it’s definitely not a movie that I find something new about each time, it’s a decently entertaining movie with a few memorable laughs. There, happy?

The Wrestler – Man, this movie is the antidote to subtlety. How do you say that you enjoyed a movie when, while you admired the movie and the performances therein, you were just aching for it to end? I wanted him to die. Not because I didn’t like Mickey Rourke’s character but because his life was so shitty that, for my sake, I needed him to just go out, Redd Foxx-style, in as little pain as possible. The moral of this movie? No one should EVER hire me to work for a suicide hotline.

The Invention of Lying – I loved the idea of this movie. It’s a great premise. Shoehorning that great premise into a romantic comedy wherein the lead character, who is actually likable, spends the entire movie squandering his “powers” on trying to make a completely unlikeable character fall in love with him? Boo! I can’t think of the last character from a movie that I disliked more than Jennifer Garner’s character. Maybe Christian Bale’s sleep-apnea voiced Batman?

Lost Highway – I love this movie. Seen it dozens of times. Robert Blake plays, hands-down, one of the creepiest characters ever put on film. And this was before he shot his wife in real life so that only acts as a creepy supplement to the movie. But when I was watching it (again) on Saturday, I started to realize just how 90’s the movie is. It’s like if Reality Bites was turned into a surreal horror movie. "Someone is sending us videotapes they have filmed of us sleeping in our house at night? God, that’s so creepy that I’m going to take another drag off this cigarette and shrug and suggest that maybe we should, like, I don’t know, call the cops or something? Ugh, but the phone is all the way over there." I still like it despite all of this.

Now to the movies I didn’t get around to watching:

Inglorious Bastards – Seems long. Will get around to it eventually. Look for a half-assed review of it here sometime between now and Winter of 2013.

Slumdog Millionare – Never before has a movie been so beloved and seemingly made for me and yet I have avoided watching it like the plague. I love Danny Boyle and have for years. My gay theater friend Benjamin and I listened to the soundtrack for Shallow Grave on repeat (we were, as Hank Hill would say, not right) during my first flight to London. Let me reiterate this: I love the films of Danny Boyle. Additionally, everyone I have ever met in my life swears that this movie is the most heartwarming thing any human can ever have the pleasure of viewing. So why am I so averse to just sitting down and committing two hours of my life watching it? I have no idea. It is one of life’s great mysteries. Much like why I can’t return any given rental DVD on time. Oh well.

On a completely unrelated but undoubtedly more entertaining note, with Josh Howard now gone for good, all we have are memories of when he and Marquis Daniels were the two coolest Mavs. Now Marquis Daniels has immortalized his coolness in the form of the ugliest necklace I have ever seen. Apple Orthodontics would not have let this happen.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I Think I Have a Jezebel Heart but a Deadspin Lady-Area

Yep, just like how John Mayer proclaimed himself to have “a Benneton heart and a white supremacist dick”
, I have realized that my blog loyalty is completely torn. As a side note, I have always wondered who would be the next musician to “pull an Elvis Costello”. Congrats to John Mayer for giving the interview that will haunt you for the rest of your soft-rockin’ career. You’re like Costello minus the part where you make music that I enjoy. Alright, back to my allegiance being torn.

I was raised to be a pretty ardent feminist. Not in some kind of child indoctrination way but just as natural byproduct of being raised almost exclusively around women. And those women were no shrinking violets either. So to say that I have some very up-with-women views is putting it lightly. Mix in the liberalism that I wear pretty proudly on my sleeve and you would think that my back is covered in a lovingly-inked portrait of Gloria Steinem. All this is what probably lead me to Jezebel’s front door.

I’ve written about it before but my small form of rebellion against my hippie, long-haired mom (whom I love dearly and who reads this so HI MOM!!) was to get my hands on any and every fashion or women’s magazine I could. And to spend hours doing my make-up or my hair or memorizing highlights of designers collections. I have vivid memories of ogling the first Tom Ford collection for Gucci. I begged and begged until my less-than-wealthy family caved and let me go to the Chanel counter to buy a bottle of Vamp nail polish. I have a lot of girlie in me and that, mixed with my love of irreverence in most forms, made me the target Jezebel demographic.

Or almost. I remember getting an email to audition for commenter status on Jezebel the day before it launched. It was going to be the foul-mouthed, no holds barred, Joan Jett-ish sister of Cosmo and Vogue and Marie Claire and Glamour. It was going to out-Jane the sadly-departed Jane Magazine. I couldn’t fucking wait. And let me preface what I am about to write with the disclaimer that I still love Jezebel and read it daily. But now, years have passed since I was allowed into the gold gilded, lily-filled world of being a Jezebel commenter. And just like the day in junior high where you realize that your elementary school best friend is just not your best friend anymore, I have realized that Jezebel and I don’t agree on a lot of things. I find myself more amused and entertained by the boys over at Deadspin.

What made me realize this and, more importantly perhaps, why on God’s green earth does it matter? These are blogs, right? Not religious texts which have made you question your faith in a holy deity and re-evaluate your purpose on this planet, right? No. But if given thirty minutes to kill, I’m far more likely to check Deadspin or Jezebel than cracking open a King James or unfurling my Pocket Torah. And yesterday, Jezebel finally posted something so ridiculous that I had to break my silence. It was this seemingly innocuous and sparsely-commented-upon post.

I have an Enjoi hoodie that is the hoodie that all girls have. The one that is way too big and nice and thick and what they throw on if they need to run to the store. Mine has a panda bear on the front and I inherited it from a friend who happens to be stocky, male and gay as the day is long. Eventually, I exercised my garmet squatter’s rights and the hoodie was mine. While tossing into the laundry basket one day, I noticed the tag. One side said that the hoodie was made “100% in the USA in a sweatshop”. The reverse side of the tag gives me the standard washing instructions then adds that “Dirty Laundry Keeps Women Busy”. And here’s where I prepare for the inundation of sensible ballet flats to be hurled in my direction. I read the label, giggled and tossed it into the hamper. I have loaned the hoodie to people from time to time and always point out the label. It gets a little chuckle and then we all somehow manage to trudge on through our lives.

Apparently this label should have enraged me! I should be cutting the offensive tags out of every Enjoi sweatshirts I can get my delicate ladyhands on! I should be sending angry emails to the oppressive misogynists who run this 19th-ammendment-hating embarrassment of a company! I should be burning my bra at the steps of their modest company headquarters! I should be doing all of that! I should be enraged! This should offend me! I should NOT be laughing at what I see as an obvious attempt at a little buried, shock value humor. Eh oh. I’m sorry but I still laugh.

Do I believe that the folks over at Enjoi believe that I should be shoeless and pregnant in my kitchen right now? Nope. Let’s say that they do, which I think is a pretty big and ridiculous leap. So what? The tag in a sweatshirt does not have the power to oppress me because, well, how do I say this succinctly? It’s a fucking care instruction label on a sweatshirt. It in no way affects my life, the way the males in my life treat me (or to a deeper extent, how I allow them to treat me) and all it has ever done to me is explicitly warn me to not bleach my Enjoi hoodie. Trust me, I get where Jezebel is coming from. That allowing sexism to exist under the protective umbrella of satire is the primrose path to actual sexism. I’m just not buying it. Let’s see the first male (non-lobotimized) that has bought one of these garments and tries to convince any woman in his life that laundry does indeed keep women busy in a sincere tone of voice.

You have to pick your battles and I just don’t see how it helps your mission statement by looking for smoke where there is none and having very little sense of humor while you do it. I remember when the Tim Tebow Focus on the Family ad came on during this year’s Super Bowl. My first response: that was what everyone was in a tizzy over? My second thought: huh? That made no f’ing sense. Third thought: so why exactly did Tim Tebow just tackle his mom while she was talking? Fourth thought: why is a quarterback tackling anyone? Then came my fifth thought: I wonder how quickly someone on Jezebel will claim that the ad subversively (or even overtly) encourages violence against women?

It took about five minutes. I guess I don’t get the desperation to always find some sort of discrimination. Women have made great strides. One extremely strong piece of evidence of this is the fact that there so many of them who read, comment and support Jezebel. And I still do, daily. But I get beaten down by the party lines that they seem to take. Anything tainted with even the smallest hint of sexism, even if it is only in jest, must be torn down, destroyed and burned like an effigy of Evil Bert and Bin Laden. There can be no discussion of the current state of the Roman Polanski case that does not include a desire to hang the man by his toenails from the highest spire.

So, if an inanimate blog can read another inanimate blog, I want to say this to you, Jezebel. I agree with you about 90-95% of the topics you address and the opinions you eloquently state. The one about Sarah Palin being a ridiculous joke of a, well, almost anything she’s tried her hand at. The one about how Christina Hendricks is girl-crush worthy. The one about how the fashion industry inundates little girls with images of thinness in an attempt to shame them into becoming oppressed (but hot and skinny!) little submissive creatures.

Really, we are still friends. Just loosen the fuck up a little.

I’m Back (but Probably Not Any Better)

I missed blogging. Hard. But let me cut straight to the point: I just didn’t want to write about sports anymore. Or at least not with such cynical regularity. I went through the apathy-turning-the-corner-to-outright-hatred cycle with sports that I had previously gone through with music. When I started writing about music, I thought there couldn’t be a better gig than writing about something that you listen to, read about, obsess over (and sometimes even try to play with alarmingly poor results) and get paid for it. And much like I would later end up doing here with the Mavs and the Cowboys, I always got the most positive feedback when I was the nastiest.

But I think that being the round-the-clock asshole eventually ruins whatever you’re writing about for you. It certainly did with music. I didn’t care who the new “it” band was and immediately assumed they sounded like a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs. I listened to NPR or sports talk radio or the sound of Tejano blaring out of the truck in the next lane gladly over putting on anything new or even an album I knew I liked. In fact, the only time I even cared to listen to music was when I was running and then you start getting into some dicey credibility territory. One glance at my workout playlists would convince you that you have somehow procured the iPod of a very emotionally unstable teen girl. There’s a lot of Beyonce and Ministry on there. A lot.

Once I got far enough away from music journalism, the blood started to run to my ears again. I started trying to find old, long out-of print albums that I loved when I was so angsty and sad and carb-oblivious. And slowly, I’m into music again. I scour You Tube for lost performances of deep album cuts. I stayed up until 2am on a work night a month ago just to try to track down old Southern Death Cult live TV performances. It’s back! I like music again.

But then there’s sports. It’s weird when you watch a game and all you take away from it is things you can bitch about. Why didn’t they go for it on 4th and 2 in the fourth quarter? Fire them all! They’re all idiots! I knew they should have gone for it! I hate this team! That stadium should just be turned into a flea market! I became the biggest sports cynic and that, mixed with the fact that I am inherently pretty damn lazy and not known for timely posting, combined to make the perfect storm of tired sports blogging. I felt like by the time I took to the keyboard to tear down those good for nothing players and coaches, I had already heard 5 sports talk hosts make those points and 10 callers rephrase that point slightly.

So let me get all of this my system: “Wade should be a defensive coordinator not a head coach!” “Jerry will never let his ego take the blow that hiring a GM would be and therefore the Cowboys are hamstrung and will eventually be the Oakland Raiders with a much nicer stadium!” “Dirk will never win a ring with this team. Let him go so he can at least retire with a ring!” “Mark Cuban is more interested in being the star of the show than building a young team and therefore the Mavs will look like a pickup game at a Medicare office!” “The Ranger and Stars….ugh……”

There. Now that I’ve made it clear that, like all sports fans, I know how to run a team better than anyone who actually runs a team and that I also have a touch of the Nostradamus, I feel like I can get back to writing about whatever the fuck tickles my fancy. Probably won’t be a lot of sports. The Cowboys made the playoffs then crumpled. The Mavs have hit a skid and now we have to rely on this trade and Caron Butler to re-invigorate the team. But not having the self-imposed assignment of ripping into my favorite teams feels like taking a load off. Besides, worry not, there are plenty of things that annoy me about which I can bitch incessantly. Hugs! It’s nice to be back.