Saturday, January 7, 2012

Movies 2012: MST3K watched Gamera

In the spirit of naming every movie I watch this year, with the help of Joel, Tom Servo and Crow, last night I watched Gamera.


You can watch it on Netflix streaming RIGHT NOW.

I don't know what one says about Gamera that hasn't been said before.  Its a movie about a 40-story, ancient, bi-pedal turtle that absorbs heat and energy as food (so missles, etc...  only make him stronger), spits it out as atomic mouth blasts and rampages like Godzilla with none of the motivation or style, but that turtle has joie de vivre.  Oh, and he can fly.  Its a mixed bag.

Mostly, we all come to Gamera to hate Kenny.  Because Kenny sucks.

Gamera to scale with a model of a boat.
Really, I can handle Godzilla movies on their own, but the only way to watch Gamera is with a healthy dose of The Satellite of Love.  I recommend watching with MST3K.

Signal Watch Bears Witness to: Mission Impossible 4 - Ghost Protocol

In many ways, I shouldn't be talking about this movie.  I didn't care for Mission Impossibles 1 or 2, never saw MI: 3, I have it in for Tom Cruise, I didn't pay for my own ticket and The Admiral (who DID pay for my ticket) has pre-warned me he shall rebut anything I have to say about this movie.  But I swore an oath that I would talk about all the movies I watched this year, and at its core, Mission Impossible 4 is only partly an Apple and BMW commercial, and it is mostly a movie.

I'm going to give this movie its props.  It knows what it is, it does part of that mission amazingly well.  This movie blows stuff up with aplomb, it has phenomenal cinematography, beautiful locations, crazy action sequences, stunning stunts, cool gadgets, etc...  I think a lot of folks would enjoy this movie and they would not be wrong.

Our heroes are funny, they're good looking, they do their own stunts, they look great in clothes, they do the "we look stressed" thing well and evenly for 2 hours of the movie.  If you can embrace that the first stunt Tom Cruise pulls in the movie wouldn't have taken him out for the rest of the movie, you'll be willing to believe that he walked away from the other 2 dozen career-ending moves he makes before he saves the day.

Look...  these sorts of movies sort of quit being my thing a while back.  I like action or adventure movies, and I don't mind macguffins moving me from set piece to set piece, but I want the movie to at least pretend to care a bit about plot details and to not just leave ellipses at every possible location, or for the macguffin of the entire movie to make a bit of sense.  In a lot of ways, the script felt like something dusted off from the mid-90's, when we'd moved past Commando and wanted at least some hand-waving of intelligence, even if it usually was all smoke and mirrors.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

6 Years Ago the UT Longhorns won the Rose Bowl

it seems impossible, but I don't own a copy of this cover, and I don't think I've ever seen it before

Six years ago I was living in the wilds of Chandler, Arizona.  It is safe to say now that 2005 was the roughest year I've experienced, and its got to be up there for Jamie, too.

We had moved to Arizona in 2002.  I had lived in Texas since age 4, and had been in Austin most of my life.   And while we loved Austin, I also knew that I needed to try something different.  So, when Jamie's job evaporated in 2001, we began looking outside of Texas, eventually winding up in Arizona.

For a multitude of reasons, we never felt comfortable in Chandler (where we lived) or Tempe (where we worked), and found it exceedingly difficult to find anyone with whom we could socialize.  I will always entertain the notion that I'm a deeply unpleasant person to have to deal with unless your paycheck requires you talk to me, but I think out there, we were just fish out of water in many ways.  And, of course, Jamie's health was always an issue.

By the summer of 2005, Jamie's health deteriorated considerably.  From late spring until November, we were on an hour-by-hour watch for changes.  And, unfortunately, I had fallen into horrendous eating and sleeping patterns.  

But in the Fall of 2005, the UT Longhorn football team was on fire.  Our quarterback was Vince Young, and you could just tell...  we were going to win a hell of a lot of games.  The odd part of watching such a season is that I think you kind of know early on that this could be the year, that this could really happen.  But then you watch every game wondering "is this where we blow it?"

I hadn't watched much UT football when I was actually at UT.  The team hadn't been great for a while, and while I liked some sports (particularly NBA basketball), I was also doing other things in my life than watching football on a Saturday, even when I was watching the NFL on Sundays as a way to defer the inevitable homework.

But I graduated, UT got a new coach, and I wasn't just reading about the games in the paper.  I actually tuned in.  I knew more than the name of the quarterback.  So by 2005, after the frustration of the Chris Simms era, we had this guy Vince Young step into the QB position (eventually.  We won't discuss poor 'ol Chance Mock too much).

FYI:  slighting either of these men in my presence will insure you receive an immediate and justified thrashing
In many ways, I have a hard time getting my head around the fact that 2005 was both My Very Personal Bad Year and The Year UT won the BCS Championship.  It seems like two completely different timelines.  Somehow we managed to catch almost every game that season, even though that was the fall when Jamie had to go back on dialysis and I recall watching at least one game on Pay-Per-View so I'm sure we missed a game or two.  If it were not for a memory of watching the UT/ A&M game on a TV at the hospital the Thanksgiving when Jamie spent her Turkey Day in a hospital bed (and I ate luke-warm turkey out of a plastic container), I'd never be able to reconcile the two timelines.  

By December, Jamie had begun to stabilize.  Jason came in for Christmas, and I know we talked a lot about UT football.

Living in Arizona, we were in Pac-10 territory, and it seemed that my work colleagues were, at best, humoring me once UT was in the championship.  UT was facing down USC, and the pundits and sportscasters were insisting this game was already decided (I particularly remember Chris Berman seemingly frustrated that they were bothering to even have the game, so certain was he of USC's victory).   But what you could tell was that 1.  the pundits seemed to be working from a certain narrative rather than demonstrating first hand knowledge one would have had they actually watched UT or the Big 12 that year, and 2. sports journalists have no idea what they're talking about (and people believe them.  Its hilarious).

Movie Watch: Horse Feathers & Niagara (and one day I will learn to spell "Niagara")

I am going to mention every single movie I watch this year.  I'm sort of curious.

Horse Feathers (1932) - The Marx Brothers.  Nothing will beat Duck Soup for me, but I'd definitely watch it again.  "Where's the seal?" won for best visual gag, but it had stiff competition.  I'm a sucker for any Marx Bros. flick, and this was a better way to spend 1.25 hours than whatever else was on TV.

Also, who doesn't like a movie about college football that includes cigar smoking on the field?

The movie co-stars the lovely Thelma Todd, who has a pretty chilling Bio page on IMDB.



Niagara (1953)  - For something so amazingly noir, this was one bright, colorful movie.  As I understand it, this was one of the movies that catapulted Marilyn Monroe to stardom, and its not hard to see why.  We forget sometimes that she's not just a still shot, she was an actress, and a pretty good one.  Not as good as Jean Peters (also an extraordinarily lovely woman), who is also in the movie playing a woman caught up in the noir story going on in the next bungalow over, but Monroe just fills a frame like few others, even when you know she's coming.  Also stars the always terrific Joseph Cotten as Monroe's anxiety-ridden husband on the path to Dark City.  And you will want to strangle Max Showalter (who would go on to play goofy Grandpa Fred in Sixteen Candles) for his corn-fed dorkiness.

And starring Jean Peters!  Who, yeah...  on the poster?  Is she one of those silhouettes on the bridge?  No?


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In which I discuss pink Lego for entirely too long

Ten years ago I was in a particularly rabid part of my action-figure collecting phase and was at Toys R' Us looking for one figure or another, wandering the action figure aisle, which contained Spider-Man, pro-wrestling fugures, GI Joe figures, etc...  All toys the store, the toy manufacturers, their marketing people, and seemingly most of customers, seemed to believe were aimed at boys.

A very young boy, probably no older than four or five - old enough to start knowing what toys he wanted to go look at on his own instead of having toys handed to him - was standing down the aisle while his mother stood near an empty cart.  She waited for another mother to roll into the aisle with a child of a similar age (also a boy), and the first mother began addressing the newly arrived mother.

"Can you believe this?" she said, making sure her voice was loud enough for everyone on the aisle to hear.  "They're dolls.  My son wants to play with dolls.  That's all these are."  She made sure to roll her eyes and make big hand waving gestures.  Her son just sort of tensed up.  This was clearly not new behavior from mom.

"Well," said the other mother, more quietly.  "He knows what he likes."

"They're dolls," laughed the first mother, making sure she got the point across.  "I can't wait for him to realize that."

To break it down:

1.  Forget the clear marketing at boys (something geek girls complain about regularly), these are dolls, if that is your definition.  But they're also dolls with bazookas and anti-aircraft weaponry and robot arms and what-not.
2.  These are not dolls in the traditional Raggedy-Ann sort of fashion.
3.  If your son IS playing with Raggedy-Ann, God help him because I suspect you'll make his life a living hell.
4.  Way to emasculate your child in front of a store full of strangers.  In no way will that sort of thing come back to haunt you both.
5.  It wasn't clear what toys this mom thought were okay for 5 year old boys to play with, but it was pretty clear she wasn't too up on what 5 year old kids actually do.
6.  Nor did she notice "this aisle is literally full of people all shopping for the very items I am ridiculing.  Maybe I'm a bit of a jack-ass".
7.  We may not like it from an abstract sociological standpoint, but toys are actually sold differently to boys and girls.  The exact same toys, sometimes.

Pursuing this conversation is, of course, a politically correct landmine, as it treads into the territory of "what is" versus "what we think" or "what a white paper clearly demonstrated" or, basically, the cynical realities created by forces of nature, nurture, culture and marketing forces stronger than your best laid plans.  And the fact that when money is involved, all you have to do is consider that businesses are either growing or they are failing, and the rest just shakes out.  And why even getting your hackles up over this development is kind of weird.

Lego is taking heat over the recent introduction of Lego toys colored pink and purple and made extra cute.  Online and in social media, I have seen a lot of people complaining about Lego's latest efforts.

Monday, January 2, 2012

So, its really going to be 2012 then, is it?

I've been off work since before Christmas Eve, so tomorrow's return to the gristmill promises to feel like a bit of a shock.  I am a bit afraid that the end of the sofa where I've been placed for the past week will become confused to not have my mass pressing down upon it and may lift up and float away.

It was a lovely break.  I saw Steven and Lauren, saw TechnoJeff from days of yore, spent time with friends and family, had our best New Years in quite some time, caught a movie or two and our family Christmas went off without a hitch.  To top things off, UT won the Holiday Bowl (congrats to Oregon fans as well).

I did, of course, damage my wrist.  I am aware that this is going to take a while to heal, and that's a bitter disappointment.

As I am trying to get this wrist right, I took my parents up on their offer to help me put away our outdoor Christmas lights, so today was de-Christmassing the house (inside and out), an activity for which there are no appropriate carols or songs.  The folks, now retired, have time on their hands and I fully intend to abuse this privilege.

The lights are down.  The tree is packed.  Who knows what things will be like in 11 months' time when those boxes find their way out once again.  Its a year end ritual, and I get it.  Its how we mark the time.

Had dinner tonight with my folks and Jamie's folks at our local Tex-Mex spot where they usually know us, but all the usual staff was AWOL.  I'm guessing tonight was their holiday.

I may recognize the calendar start of the New Year, but it always feels like there's a gray period between raising a glass or stealing a kiss at midnight and finding yourself back at work and writing 2012 in that first email.  Putting away the garland, fake tree and nutcrackers becomes  part of saying adios to the year that was and makes way for the year that is happening now.  A clean slate.  Tabula rasa.  As I said, there seems like there should be a catchy song for this occasion.

For me, New Years has always been more about saying good-bye to last year than greeting the New Year.  There's probably something to that, and the fact that I like to be at home with a cocktail when the clock strikes 12.  I am a person who likes to do his reconnaissance before engaging with a new activity or situation.  I ask lots of questions about people I'm to meet.  I pour over schedules and room layouts.  A blank year brings with it the unknown, and I think the only sane response is to eye that year like a new person or job.  You have to suss them out a bit before you can start declaring how great this person or job actually is.  I have no bold proclamations for how 2012 is going to be "awesome".  I have no idea what my life will look like by April.

I am not blue that the holidays are done or that the year has ended.  I've got stuff coming up.  We've got a lot on our plate for 2012.

But this marks the end of the Holidays and a year.  Me watching the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (tied up at 31-31 in the 4th) with my own two dogs, a borrowed dog (Cassidy is here while Jason is out of town), and the usual gas-logs masking the source of the false fire.

Here's to 2012.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

In 2012 I'd Like to See...

Here are some things I'd like to see in 2012:

On Cryptids:

  • TV audiences accept that if we ever do catch footage of a ghost, UFO or bigfoot on video (which we won't because, well...), it is not going to show up at 11:43 PM on a Saturday on Animal Planet.  
  • The TV audience realizes that the people who are pursuing these things have decided to divorce themselves from reality for reasons that probably have to do with a lack of hugs in their formative years, because they played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons as kids, and/ or they might just not be very bright
  • Except for Mothman, which is totally real

On Comics:
  • Indie creators look at the marketplace and quit making the same five indie comic books over and over (you are only allowed to do zombies, vampires or were-beasts if your last name is Roberson and/ or you are going to do something entirely new with the concept).  
  • On the flipside, I'd like to see DC and Marvel just make solid comics about their major characters (like Waid's Daredevil).  
  • Someone, somewhere in comics makes a first issue that does half a good a job as your average TV show at setting up new characters, a setting and a conflict instead of just seemingly throwing genre bits on the page.  This may mean your first issue is more than 20 pages.  I'm sorry.
  • Comic readers will realize that Dragon Ball Z and Pro-Wrestling are not the be-all/ end-all of storytelling, and we hit at least YA-levels of narrative in more comics.
  • The stuff inside comics will be half as interesting as the stuff happening outside the comics
  • Creators will realize they have the power to take things into their own hands if they can work out new models of vertical integration and a few step up to act like business people (Image for 2012)
  • Publishers like IDW will realize their real job is to reach an audience outside of the direct market, including pricing models that work for folks on the street
  • I have nothing to offer Marvel and DC.  You're both offering me small selections of books I'll pick up, but its clear its time for major changes at both companies.  I am waiting for your corporate bosses to clue in to this fact.
  • You would sell more comics if they were 25 pages for $2.  I'm just saying.


On Television:

  • My cable service will realize that offering me 200 channels is not something that's cost effective for either of us.  I watch shows, not networks.  If one cent of my money is going towards baking shows, bridal shows, home-shopping shows, pregnant teen shows, etc...  then cable may have quit making any sense for me.  (I really just need local news and TCM, HBO and ESPN at this point.  I believe everything else winds up on Hulu.)
  • Someone will come up with a News Network that actually shows me the news and not Nancy Grace and that horrid Jane Velez-Mitchell being
  • Another season of Louis would be great.  As would the continuation of Venture Bros.  


On the Election Cycle:

  • For me not to want to gouge my own eyes out by June and wish for the replacement of our voting system with a monarchy
  • For the unbelievable distortions and fantasy/ paranoid fabrications to be covered as such by mainstream news media instead of being looked at as if the complete distortions have a grain of truth
  • For voters to actually think about what a candidate is really saying and weigh that against whether or not that's something a @#$%ing lunatic might say

Who was your New Years' Kiss?

A little Casiotone for the Painfully Alone to get you started on 2012.