quartz cluster

Saw several movies over the past few weeks, mostly while sleep deprived, but here we a-go-go:

The Kids Are Alright -- I'd say this is an underrated movie, but it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay... I went in not sure what to expect, and it surprised me. The movie is highly enjoyable because it doesn't make any dramatic statements that a movie in its position seems poised to make: it's about the children of a lesbian couple who decide to find out who their biological father is (each mother used the same anonymous donor's sperm). When you hear that premise you get a feeling that you're going to have some heavy handed preachy points thrown your way. Well, not here. If anything, this movie is about how a family, more specifically a loving couple that happens to be lesbian, handle the challenges that any longterm relationship can encounter. When you consider the healthy sense of humor and likability of all the major characters, you have an enjoyable film. What really sticks out is how the characters act: there really isn't a villain per se here. People act very naturally --and their minor flaws create the kind of drama that's believable and immersing. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are a believable couple and Mark Ruffalo has this sort of slacker charm that makes you think of the Big Lebowski's "Dude" if he had his act together. I really have no complaints about this movie, and I'm glad the Oscar nominations reminded me to consider watching it.

5/5 -- Highly recommended!

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The Other Guys -- I don't know how I totally missed on this the first time, but once I heard the premise, saw the cast and found out it got good reviews I was thrilled it was being screened at the university's modest cinema venue. The story is about a pair of NYC detectives at the bottom of the food chain --one a forensic accountant (Will Ferrell), the other suffering from a major career embarrassment (Mark Wahlberg), who are "the other guys" compared to the hot-shot cops that go through the crazy car chases, hot women and awesome destruction (played by Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock). As you can imagine, wacky happenings put the two underdogs in a position to shine --but the fun is in how they get there, right? In that sense, the humor in The Other Guys is loaded with excellent riffs on cop movie cliches as well as the wacky humor that you expect from Will Ferrell's better comedies. On the whole it really somehow works. Oddly enough, the end credits include one of the most damning slide shows about the state of corporate inequality that you'll see in a purely commercial movie.

4/5

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Get Him to the Greek -- "I want my house to look like a werewolf." The sort-of sequel (more like a spin-off) to Forgetting Sarah Marshall focuses entirely on the exploits of rocker Aldous Snow and the young record company employee, played by Jonah Hill, sent to corral him to a big anniversary show at L.A.'s Greek Theatre. The core script and performances make this movie work. If you saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which isn't really necessary for this film), you know that Snow is a very colorful character. Setting up this film, he's off the wagon and back into full-on drug binge/booze mode which puts him into full rockstar insanity routine --something actor Russell Brand handles perfectly. Hill, who works well in role looking for a sharp-witted semi-dork, does an excellent job inhabiting the position of Brand's counterweight and bringing out thoughts that audience members would be having. Any review of the movie would be woefully incomplete without mentioning rap mogul Sean Combs' surprising turn as comic relief. In addition to other solid cameos, Combs' role as Sergio --Hill's diabolical record label boss, provides maniacal humor that manages to top (and balance) the situation the leads are in. Anyway, it's a damn fun and zany movie.

3/5


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127 Hours -- A man gets trapped by a boulder and it takes 127 for him to figure out and accept he has to cut off his arm in order to survive. In between, all wackiness ensues. Directed by Danny Boyle, it's like Slumdog Millionaire if it were completely different in every conceivable way other than his skill at creating frantic but well-thought pacing. Franco gives the excellent performance he's been credited with, but on the whole I just felt this movie wasn't the best I've seen this year, despite the Best Picture nomination --on the short term, I felt The Kids Are Alright was the stronger film. Still a nice flick, and that arm-cutting scene is long, intense, but surprisingly well done.

3/5

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Appaloosa -- A solid, straightforward Western starring the always enjoyable Ed Harris (who directed and co-adapted for the screen) and Viggo Mortensen. What could've simply been a genre exercise works because of the solid script (the novel it was based off of was clearly good source material) and excellent performances by all involved (including Jeremy Irons, Lance Henriksen and a surprisingly good performance by Renée Zellweger). The movie has a relaxed pace (and decent sense of humor) that lets the complex personalities of the characters develop and blossom into payoffs for the audience. The relationship between Harris and Mortensen is especially interesting, as Harris plays the older veteran of their team, yet Mortensen is likely the wiser of the two but has full respect for his partner and boss. When confrontations happen, you feel like there was a sensible build up. People make mistakes because they're something their personalities would let happen. It doesn't make any big reaches, which work to its benefit. The whole movie is satisfying. If you enjoy Westerns, this is definitely one of the better films of the past several years.

4/5

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American Me -- Admirable, if not uneven, fictionalization of the founding of the notorious Mexican Mafia in the prisons of California in the 1950s and 60s. The beginning of the film portrays one of America's lesser known but more embarrassing racial moments, LA's Zoot Suit Riots where US Navy sailors went on an orgy of violence and rape against Mexicans for dressing and looking different --a scene that introduces us to the main character's parents and sets up the underclass status of Latinos in Southern California in the early half of the 20th century. Edward James Olmos, as Santana, gives a solid performance as a man whose mistakes as a child, likely as a product of his environment in the barrios of East LA, put him into the correctional system --a system that forces him to become even more brutal and ruthless in order to survive. Enamored with the power and respect he earns from being tough, he and his Latino cohorts in prison are able to tear down the otherwise inter-gang rivalries that the had on the outside and reforms them into a unified Latino gang that becomes the premiere force in prison rivaling the Italian mob and all other challengers. William Forsythe plays Santana's longtime right-hand man, J.D., who, regardless of being white, is the most committed of the Mexican Mafia's senior leaders. The dialogue is filled to the brim with all of the Mexican gangster terms you can shake a stick at: ese, carnal, homeboy, orale, etc. The only problem is the script lets you down a bit in the final act and Olmos' work as director is a bit too slow paced at times. Still, it's a decent Latino gang movie.

3/5

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The Illusionist (L'illusionniste) -- Not to be confused with the Ed Norton film, this is the next movie by Sylvain Chomet, who's previous film was the frustrating yet admirable Triplets of Belleville (a film that got jobbed by Finding Nemo at the Oscars). It's been seven years, so I was very curious to see what Chomet's been up to.

He chose an unproduced script by noted French filmmaker/actor Jacques Tati, whose own films of the mid-20th century (he died in '82 IIRC) are well noted (and covered by distributors like the Criterion Collection) --Tati apparently wrote the film as an attempt to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Needless to say, the film offers a potentially interesting collaboration.

The film has many highlights of Chomet's style: the visuals, the very sparse use of language (most of it intentionally unintelligible), and the lovely caricatures he finds in human types. At the same time, Tati's very personal script gives the film it's own direction... it's a very bittersweet comedy: filled with longing and melancholy but with an understanding of how hope continues on. Animation suits the story, and you do feel like you're watching a French film of the 40s-60s that just happens to be a "cartoon".

Set in 1959, the illusionist in question is never named --but he is the last of a dying vaudeville breed (including ventriloquists and clowns) that's being pushed aside in favor of nascent rock music and movies. His career is on terminal decline, but not for lack of his own talent. Finding himself taking smaller gigs, he finds himself in a remote village in Scotland where he meets a teenage girl who finds his work enchanting and joins him on his way to Edinburgh. The two have a father/daughter relationship which is honest and kind. Still, the world keeps moving and complications arise --but don't mistake this for some batshit-crazed antics like those seen in Belleville. The Illusionist is firmly grounded in the sort of subdued realism that you see in many French films. When changes occur, they are hardly "spectacular", but they are no less powerful.

In the end, though, it's a loving homage to Tati's style and, indeed, the style of many films of that era --but not something that I would say elevates to a truly grand level. I certainly still like both Spirited Away and Toy Story 3 a lot more. With that said, I would recommend without reservation to any fan of animation or fan of the films of Jacques Tati.

4.5/5
time gal triumphant!

(no subject)

Oh and lest I forget... I want to take a moment here to offer Happy Birthday wishes to my favorite bohemian hat fashionista in this little corner of the space/time continuum, also known as Sara! ^_^
Basara Kubikiri

Girl from Battle Creek, Michigan kills 448 lb. black bear on hunting trip.

http://www.wzzm13.com/news/news_story.aspx?storyid=133126


Some of you may disagree, but don't construe me as being hypocritical when I say I vehemently oppose the killing of a black bear, but understand and support official population control of wild Deer.

What makes someone such a bad ass for killing a hefty creature living in the forest? Was that bear going to overpopulate and creep onto the highways causing traffic accidents? Was it going to deplete this years corn and soybean harvest? No, you're just being a stupid braggart jackass.

BTW, with the overproduction of cattle I feel like hunting is unnecessary. But then I am not terribly fond of eating meat simply because of the overproduction of cattle farming. The number of cows raised for slaughter on a daily basis in this country is insane.
Hikaru Sulu: Fencer for Hire

(no subject)

My favorite Greek of all time, one who warms my heart every time, is Mr. Snuffleupagus, who of course changed his name from Artemios "Demis" Snoufaloupagoussos. As much as he tried to sanitize that fact, the body hair was a dead giveaway.

EDIT: While he was initially concerned that his heritage might cause problems with his working relationship with Big Bird, a superstar with incredible clout who could make or break his show-business career --and who could eventually bring from being a part-time "imaginary friend" to full-time cast member, things ended up working out as Big Bird only had disputes backstage with Jewish muppets.
Hikaru Sulu: Fencer for Hire

Michigan: Making America look bad since 1837.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/us/30militia.html

I guess it'd been a while since a fringe militia got a bit too ornery --especially one dusting off the old "New World Order" concern. In other news, the level of education for segments of the US population simply rocks.

I'd rather the journalists use "severely mentally challenged family, probably due to inbreeding or polluted ground water" vs. "militia..."

But seriously... They were in Michigan, so... can we just give them Detroit? I mean, how much worse could they be? Preparing it for the imminent arrival of the Anti-Christ probably wouldn't really hurt it.
fragment 83

Today's Detroit makes the Robocop version look timid by comparison.

In October of 2008 I had to go there for work-related reasons(monotonous NCAA seminars). Based on what I saw in the span of less than 72 hours, I would rather be forced to live in the following locations other than Detroit:

Weequahic area of Newark, NJ

Iraq

Afghanistan

War-ravaged Bosnia

Compton neighborhood of L.A.

Camden, NJ

Louis Pink housing section of Brooklyn(Don't ask)



I guess in Iraq or Afghanistan at least you'd have an automatic weapon or rocket launcher to protect yourself.

Needless to say, I vow never to visit Detroit again under my own free will.
Hikaru Sulu: Fencer for Hire

Such a mess: Mass flaggings on Craigslist

Not sure if anyone has noticed this, or if it's going on in your local one.

It takes about 20-30 "flags" reported on an ad before the system auto-deletes it. Of course there's no signing up, so anyone can flag an ad. It just checks IPs.

Basically, people are using programs that will spam flag an ad. Flag an ad through a proxy server, change IP, flag it again, switch IP... Repeat till removed.

Holy crap, there's sections of the Philadelphia craigslist where all the ads from the last 3-5 days are all totally removed. I think the programs auto go through and attack new ones the second they're posted. I've seen ads come up, read them, then hit refresh and poof, it's already marked as being removed due to flagged.

I had a friend trying to sell several glass arcade marquees for me- And he kept complaining that every time he posted, it'd get flagged. Mysteriously- there was only one seller whose vintage arcade junk wouldn't get flagged at all. I gave him an irate phone call- and the constant flagging stopped within about 60 minutes.

It is truly pathetic and discouraging that certain people will flag out ads selling other items identical to the ones they have for sale.

Nuisances like this keeps up and I wonder how long before Craigslist has to change up their system to prevent it.

I swear eBay bought part ownership of Craigslist just to make sure bad decision making on running the site could continue and flourish. Would only make sense for them to do so.

Craigslist's problem is the fact it's an open ad forum that requires zero subscribing. It was only a matter of time before people figured out ways to anonymously abuse the system.

Some do it for the above listed reason, others do it just to be assholes. I noticed in the Rants and Raves section a guy spamming up ads claiming it's him and friends attacking the Dover, Delaware CL. Saying how they're gonna keep the entire service shut down via flagging from now till the end of time.

Craigslist is a great concept, but in the end they'll probably have to resort to charging or other requirements that'll piss off people just to prevent abuse.

OT EDIT: I still can't believe some of the personal ad postings that are clearly prostitution. It's just the outright audacity of saying "Any orifice available, I'll get freaky all you want for $$$".

I always assume they're undercover cops, but who knows, some people are simply that stupid...