when the status quo frustrates.

A Whole Ton of Movie Reviews Part 3: A Christmas Carol

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Substantive blogging is on the way, but for right now, I’m just enjoying the relative lull in “OMG ur a humorless feminazi” comments.

So, Jim Carrey decided to take on that holiday favorite, Charles Dickens’s “The Christmas Carol”. “The Christmas Carol”, for all of you who do not live in the western world and eschew all forms of media that aren’t the internet and don’t read, is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a money-lender and landlord in London. Scrooge, as we’re introduced, is a cold-hearted, unkind, cheapskate of a man. He treats everyone terribly- from his employee, Bob Cratchet, to his nephew Fred, to people collecting for the poor- he is polite to the point of rudeness, mean, and just generally a bastard of a man.
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A Whole Ton of Movie Reviews: Part 2 The Princess and the Frog (Bonus, Pinocchio)

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

“Holidays” for me means “movies” so here we go:

I went and watch Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” with a friend last week (hey, what can I say? I have a soft spot for Disney). This movie starts out with Tiana and her rich friend Charlotte listening to Tiana’s mother Eudora (Oprah Winfrey) tell the story of the Princess and the Frog while Eudora is finishing one of Charlotte’s many princess dresses. Charlotte is all for the idea of kissing a frog as long as it means she gets to be a real princess, whereas Tiana is completely against the idea. Tiana and Eudora then go home, to Tiana’s father, James (Terrance Howard), where he shares his dream with Tiana to have a high-class restaurant of his own, called Tiana’s Place.

Fast forward about a decade, and you see Tiana (Anika Nori Rose) working multiple jobs, scrimping, and apparently never going out with her friends because, despite all the nay-sayers, she wants her restaurant is prepared to work really hard to get it. She has the added reason of wanting to see it fulfilled because her father died in WWI, and she wants to be able to make her dream come to fruition.

At the same time, Prince Naveen (Bruno Compos) from a fictional country comes with his servant Lawerence (Peter Bartlett). Prince Naveen, we discover, has been cut off financially from his family for basically being a lazy lay-about. Now he has to get married in order to support his habit of doing nothing but a shifty lay-about, and, judging from the look of the girls that are sighing at his feet, shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Especially since Miss Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) is still aching for her prince, and Big Daddy LaBoff (John Goodman), the sugar baron of New Orleans, and Miss Charlotte’s father has arranged for Prince Naveen to come and stay at his guest house.

Prince Naveen’s visit is fortuitous for Tiana as well, because Charlotte in an act that is part generous and mostly curious pays Tiana quite a lot of money to make her famous desserts* which gives her just enough money to buy an abandoned sugar mill for her restaurant. She goes and tells the financiers that she wants it, and they promise to bring the paperwork at Big Daddy’s party for Tiana to sign.

Prince Naveen, on the way to the LaBoff’s, is waylaid by a voodoo priest that everyone calls “The Shadowman” (Keith David). The Shadowman makes a deal with Voodoo spirits and tricks Naveen into coming into his “lair” despite Lawerence’s warning.

At the party, Tiana is heartbroken to discover that the financiers did not bring the paperwork because someone has apparently out-bid her. She has until Wednesday to come up with the remaining money, or her dream of starting a restaurant will not come to fruition. At the same party, Miss Charlotte is going crazy because Prince Naveen has not yet showed up. Yet, she calms down enough to help Tiana into one of her millions of princess gowns after the dog, Stella, ruins Tiana’s costume.

Just after Tiana gets into her dress, Charlotte hears Prince Naveen enter and is away in a fog of squeals to waltz the night away with her beloved. Tiana is left in Charlotte’s room, and finally gives wishing on a star a try, seemingly having run out of options. A frog jumps up on the balcony and she asks it if it wants a kiss, and then completely freaks out when it answers “A kiss would be nice”. After she calms down a bit, Naveen introduces himself, and convinces her to kiss him because “His parents are very wealthy”. After much waffling, Tiana decides to pucker up and kiss him, only to become a frog herself.

The two are chased out into the bayou, and after finding a hiding place from some very hungry alligators, discover that neither is whom the other thought they were. Naveen admits that he’s broke, and Tiana says she’s not a princess- she’s a waitress. They decide to find away to get back to New Orleans, and while Tiana is rowing, Naveen decides to play a little banjo. His banjo-playing attracts the attention of Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley), a jazz-trumpet playing alligator. He wants to play in a jazz band, but his one attempt ended poorly. He tells them about Mama Odie, a good voodoo priestess who could probably help them out. He decides to take them to Mama Odie, also deciding to try and see if she would turn him into a human too.

Louis gets them hopelessly lost, so a Cajun firefly by the name of Ray (Jim Cummings) gives them a hand.

The rest gives away massive spoilers, so I’ll just let you watch it from there.
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A Whole Ton of Movie Reviews: Part 1 Sherlock Holmes

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

‘Tis the Season for me to…watch a bunch of movies at the theatre. It’s perfect- I get to hang out with the in-laws because they have all of this free time, but we don’t actually have to talk to each other (which tends to lead to unpleasantness). It’s bonding without all the messy “getting to know one another parts”.

For Christmas day, Hubby, FiL, and Baby Brother all went and watched Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes is a movie that is loosely based on the series of novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They got some of the major characteristics right- Sherlock Holmes is an eccentric genius that can derive a lot of information based on tiny details (and an annoying coke-head between cases), Watson is a doctor and ex-military. Man of the lines from the movie were directly lifted from the books (I particularly like the “never have theories before facts, or one will undoubtedly twist the facts to support the theory), though not in the same context. But, Robert Downey’s portrayal seemed more martial than I remember Sherlock Holmes being, and Watson I always sort of pictured as a military man gone slightly to seed (not the sexy Jude Law character*).

The movie starts out with a chase scene, and Sherlock Holmes capturing an occultist called Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). Holmes and Watson go off and we learn that this is to be the last case that Holmes and Watson do together because Watson intends to be married to a nice girl named Mary (Kelly Reilly). Though Holmes never says it, directly, he does not seem to want Watson to move out and get married. The first time he meets Mary (Kelly Reilly) (under duress) he insults her by implying that she was a gold digger.

During this time, Lord Blackwood has managed to scare everyone in the prison- prisoners and guards; mainly due to his guard seemingly being struck by possession. Lord Blackwood’s last request is to see Sherlock Holmes, whom he tells that he will rise from the grave, and kill three more people, whom Holmes will be powerless to stop. Lord Blackwood is seemingly, and Watson is the attending physician to say he is dead.

Holmes, now thoroughly bored without a case to pursue, is busy doing coke and odd experiments with flies, gets a visit from one Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), who offers him a ton of money to find a missing person, a ginger midget. Watson comes by, and giving the audience a bit of back-story, tells us that Irene Adler is the only person who has managed to trick Holmes. Twice. Holmes decides to take the case.

Three days after the burial of Lord Blackwood, we find his coffin has been destroyed, and a witness said that Lord Blackwood had walked again. Inside the coffin is a ginger midget, the same that Holmes had been paid to find. Now Holmes’s new case is to find Lord Blackwood, and find out what his plan is (and stop him if necessary).**

It was a fun movie, and really, that’s the highest praise I can give it. The writing was fun, the directing was okay (it avoid “shaky cam” but not as much as I would like), the costumes and sets were amazing. If you like martial scenes (like Hubby and Co. did) you’ll really enjoy the martial scenes***. I was thrilled to see that McAdams not only had way more of an important role than the previews gave her credit for, she was also in way more clothes than the previews gave her credit for. Additionally, I was thrilled that McAdams did not attempt and English accent (Downing’s wasn’t actually too bad. Believable, at least to my ears.) This movie fails the Benhdel Test (and hard) and McAdams was the only one who really did anything in the movie, and even she was kind of flat, character-wise. But, as this movie was supposed to be an action flick set in Victoria England, I can’t really blame them too terrible much (individually, at least. It’s a different story on why do we get a million of these action flicks but only a handful that pass the Benhdel test?)

Prognosis- Nice popcorn flick, but get someone else to pay for the ticket (like we did) or rent it.

*Not that I’m complaining. I like sexy men in my movies too.
** I won’t give away any more. Seriously, this is just a fun ride to enjoy.
*** My tastes in martial scenes are more “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” than Bruce Lee- more art, less martial. Not a big fan of the sound of crunch bones or the sight of bright red blood.

Interesting

Monday, December 21st, 2009

I went to a wedding of a friend of mine’s this weekend. The party was fun, the bride and groom looked gorgeous like they always do.

But, this is not about the wedding. This is about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
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Aviation Stupidity Bill

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

This post does not have much to do with progressive politics, except that I believe that the progressive side of the spectrum supports being intelligent.

Early this last year, there was a terrible crash in Buffalo, New York. The NTSB discovered that the crash was a result of significant ice build-up on the wings of the aircraft. Many people died and were injured as a result of that crash.*

But, as a another result of that crash, the House immediately sprang into action to “Do Something”. They Must Make Aviation Safer!** So they created the “Aviation Safety Bill” H. R. 3371; a sweeping piece of legislation, and by an overwhelming majority passed it. Now it’s shipped off to the Senate, and they are the only hope to block it. And this is a bill to be blocked. Most of the stuff is actually a pretty good idea- for example, it basically kills overnight quick turns. It is currently pretty standard practice to have a pilot fly somewhere, and get 8 hours between their last flight, to when they need to be back in the morning at the airport. That sounds like enough to sleep, right? Except that you have to include the time to drive to and from the airport to the hotel, wind-down time, and getting ready in the morning and being at the airport early enough to inspect the plane. Then, all of a sudden, that 8 hours of sleep is more like 5. Having pilots that are more rested and awake will certainly make aviation safer.

There is also the redundant in this bill- such as the “pre-employment screening” of prospective pilots. It’s true that there is no law mandating such a thing, but all airlines do it anyway. They’re not going to waste their money on a bad pilot; not even American-based airlines are that stupid.

But, in section 10, there is the awful reason this bill needs to be killed, or at least amended. In section 10, it now requires that all first officers have an FAA ATP license.
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In Defense of ReGifting

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

I like to give gifts. And I mean real gifts- gifts that I’ve thought about, gifts that I’ve dedicated myself, gifts that give a part of myself to my friends and loved ones. Gifts they think they’ll use. I make my gifts to my friends, generally. Some friends get Christmas cookies in tins that I pick up from the thrift store. And, sometimes, I regift, or give hand-me-downs: books that I think my sisters will like that I’ve already read, a bed-set that I’ve used for my friend that is currently using a couch pillow and a comforter, sewn mittens for a friend using fabric scraps I caught on clearance, or something I found in the thrift store in the first place. And, if I am to listen to the mainstream media, by doing so I am committing a social faux pau on scale with farting at a wedding.

Now, one could make the argument that criticizing the mainstream media is picking the low-hating fruit. That’s probably true- after all, all of those ads on the side of the page for “Brand New Shiny Toy” and “Get Rich Now” aren’t there by accident. These sorts of messages are designed to make one think that worth is something you can put a price tag on and getting the bauble that “everyone” (or Every Woman, or Every Man) wants can be a substitute for the time and energy that pursing an actual relationship takes. The point of these messages can basically be boiled down to “More expensive gifts mean you care more” and it’s quieter message of “If you don’t spend a lot you don’t care that much”.

But, it isn’t just the mainstream media. My mom is paranoid about being caught regifting, I was once told by an ex-boyfriend (who came from a wealthy family) that no gift is better than a cheap gift. And seriously, what a fucked-up idea is that? If you aren’t rich, if you don’t have a ton of disposable money to go buy the shiny, you shouldn’t give a gift? You shouldn’t enjoy the feeling of making someone feel special by giving them something all done up in wrapping paper and bright ribbon? The warm feeling when their face lights up? Or, equally as terribly, if your social circle is broke, you shouldn’t enjoy getting gifts from them? Is it really so much more terrible to get a book that’s already been read as opposed to getting nothing at all?

Getting upset about regifting is a mark of class privilege that is disgusting. Now, of course, I still of the dear belief that you give gifts because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to. I am not an owed a gift, nor is anyone beholden to give me one. But, if the gift is used, but it is still clear that it’s giving was after thought about what YOU would want and need, is that really worse than giving you a shiny that you have no use for? I say “no”. It is the thought that counts, and it is clear if thought has been given.

I know that gifts are not always given out of love. There’s social obligation, there’s expectation, there’s giving to brag. And it’s really sad, because at the end, that’s what makes the holiday season stressful and annoying, as opposed to a time of warmth and joy.

Posting From Exile

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Computer still not working, and now it’s going to take longer to buy a new one. I just got laid off from my job, so I’m back on the market again for work. On the plus side, I should be able to blog more from my friend’s house.