Sunday, January 30, 2011

Survive Donkey Island: Meet The Donkeys (And the Fish)

All right, friends, we've got our Donkey Island contestants.

Remember, Donkey Island is a series of private poker tournaments that is open to everybody, and the sixteen contestants will simply be playing a prop bet as an overlay (Donkey Island will also be running over in The Dank). Feel free to join in! First one is in 2 weeks, and it's a rebuy!

Survive Donkey Island 001
Full Tilt Poker
$1 + $1 Rebuy
February 13, 2011
9:30 PM EST
password: survive

Team Donkey and Team Fish will be competing for the cash prize pool. The winner will take down literally dozens of dollars. The losers will be killed and eaten where they stand. Here are the Runners, and may God have mercy on their souls.

Team Fish

Team Motto:  "  Go big, or go small.  Either way." 

Al Can't Hang

Plays Poker Like:  Somebody who doesn't get out much.
Survivor Identity: The happy codger.
Strategy for Survival: Display his value by regaling his team with stories about the way things used to be.


Plays Poker Like:  Phil Ivey crossed with a sack of painted rocks.  Mainly the rocks.
Survivor Identity: The rat bastard.
Strategy for Survival: Win his team's trust by spearing fish, cooking them . . . little do those fools know that they are eating POISON FISH BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!!!!  BWAAAAA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


Plays Poker Like: Um . . . it's Hoyazo, you idjit.  He plays AWESOME.
Survivor Identity: The hot chick.
Strategy for Survival: Lasso tricks and seduction.

The Real Dawn Summers

Plays Poker Like: A Zac Efron fan after the 2nd wine cooler.
Survivor Identity:  The silent assassin.
Strategy for Survival:  Plans to use her Twitter account to get people to call in votes for her. Also, does not realize that this isn't American Idol.


Plays Poker Like: A combination between Fergie and Jesus.
Survivor Identity:  The hot chick's friend.
Strategy for Survival:  Hide in the sand.


Plays Poker Like: The money doesn't matter. And like the chips don't matter. And like strategy doesn't matter.
Survivor Identity:  Good-time Charlie
Strategy for Survival:  KARATE CHOP!!!


Plays Poker Like: Daffy Duck
Survivor Identity:  Abrasive leader who Gets Things Done
Strategy for Survival:  Won't get voted out, because she says so, that's why.


Plays Poker Like: Richard III.
Survivor Identity:  The Clown-baby.
Strategy for Survival:  Doesn't plan to survive. Don't you see the signs? He came here to die, man.  He came here to die.

Team Donkey

Team Motto:  "Yes, we . . . can? I'm going to be honest with you, that doesn't sound right."


Plays Poker Like: He truly believes everything will go his way.
Survivor Identity:  The Mastermind.
Strategy for Survival:  Stay up every night planning.


Plays Poker Like: A pro. By which I mean a prostitute, of course.
Survivor Identity:  The Hyper-Competitive Guy
Strategy for Survival:  Win every single tournament, win the respect of all by laughing in their faces.

High On Poker

Plays Poker Like: Michael Jordan plays baseball.
Survivor Identity:  The Drama Queen.
Strategy for Survival:  First, you get the money.  Then you get the power.  Then you get the women.


Plays Poker Like: He's never played poker.
Survivor Identity:  The Crazy-Like-A-Fox Hayseed
Strategy for Survival:  Just find the winning team, keep your head down, and ride those coat-tails.


Plays Poker Like: Hmm, how to describe it. Well, you remember when you were a kid? You remember how awesome Christmas morning was? The exact opposite of that.
Survivor Identity:  The First One Voted Out
Strategy for Survival:  Abject begging.


Plays Poker Like: Every week was Shark Week.
Survivor Identity:  The Psychopath
Strategy for Survival:  Well, first you need to get an alliance. Next, you have to make sure that you have a few other stringers on board. Then, when all your ducks are in a row, you start burying the Claymore mines and stringing up the piano wire. Once you have all the bodies in one place, it's time to dig the mass graves. I may have said too much.


Plays Poker Like: A ham sandwich.
Survivor Identity:  The Wild Card
Strategy for Survival:  Poodle. Poodle all the way.

Numb Bono

Plays Poker Like: A lost little lamb.
Survivor Identity:  The Girl Next Door
Strategy for Survival:  Snuggling, pictures of kitty cats.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Time-Delayed Oscars 004: 1993

So last week was fun. Unforgiven was voted the winner, as expected, with a surprisingly (to me) strong showing for Malcolm X. Except that the votes went up AND down. What do I know?

Either I am in a much more charitable mood or this year was just STACKED. Lots of movies to cover. Let's do it.

If you think I'm making a snarky joke
about Schindler's List, you're crazy.
Here's a list of ALL the movies of 1993.

The Keepers

Army of Darkness - The lesser of the Evil Dead movies is still (arguably) the funniest. "Good guy, bad guy ... I'm the guy with the gun." It is a little bit criminal, isn't it, that we live in a world where Shia LaBeuf is an action star, while Bruce Campbell toils in obscurity? Nonsense.

Benny & Joon- Does this one survive? It probably doesn't belong on this list. It does have a notable early Johnny Depp performance as a Buster Keaton worshiping fool with a heart of gold. Also, it features that "I Would Walk 500 Miles" song. I may be alone in half-remembering this movie half-fondly.

Carlito's Way - Al Pacino and Brian DePalma before losing their fastball. Sean Penn just as he was finding his. An under-rated gangster gem.

Dazed and Confused - The American Graffiti of a new generation. I love this movie, man. I get stays the saaaame great. This is one of those films that I knew before I was even finished watching it that it was an enduring classic. Packed with big stars before they became big stars, a great script, and an almost magical invocation of a specific time and place (it will make you nostalgic for the seventies even if you weren't alive then), Dazed is the goods.

Falling Down - The movie that presaged the Tea Party. An angry nameless white collar drone (Michael Douglas in one of his career-best roles) goes on a cathartic and impotently insane rampage one sweltering Los Angeles day. "I'm the bad guy?" mumbles the guy who has just kidnapped his kid.

The Fugitive - Tommy Lee Jones pwns in this movie, especially the famous drainage pipe scene. He even took home a best supporting actor Oscar for his troubles, and that's why we still remember a decent action movie that overachieved into a Best Picture nomination.

Gettysburg - I haven't seen this yet (I know, I know. Let's just say this is one of those movies that nearly get me killed when people find out I haven't seen it. For a select few, it may be the most fervently beloved 4-hour movie of the decade.

Groundhog Day - In 1993, this was a minor hit for Bill Murray. Over the years, Groundhog Day has become a beloved classic, and has entered the canon of The Greatest Comedies Ever. Its safe to say this is the consensus best Bill Murray movie and performance. "Bing!"

In The Line Of Fire - Malkovitch malkovitch malkovitch malkovitch. Malkovitch. Malkovitch malkovitch malkovitch? Malkovitch!

Jurassic Park - It was a hell of a year for Stephen Spielberg, was 1993. He didn't just turn in one of the most lionized films of all time (more on that soon). He also had the biggest hit of the year, a movie that just so happens to have also been the CGI game-changer presaged by the liquid T2000 cop in Terminator 2 a couple years back. When it comes to action/adventure/summer spectacle movies, there's before Jurassic Park and after Jurrasic Park. It all started with those dinosaurs.

Menace II Society - This one is starting to be forgotten a bit. I loved this movie, and it still seems to me to have been operating on a totally different wavelength than any of the other "hood" movies of the 90s. Where did this genre go, anyway? Are there still earnest movies about inner city violence? That ending still gives me chills. I wish the Hughes Brothers had gone on to do anything else worth mentioning.

Much Ado About Nothing - Not Kenneth Branagh's best Shakespeare adaptation (Henry V) or his most ambitious (Hamlet), but certainly his most accessible and fun. Even Keanu stinking up the joint is horribly enjoyable and enjoyably brief. I do wish Branagh was still making Shakespeare movies. His reading of "She loves me? Why, it must be requited." is both hammy inspiration.

A Perfect World - I doubt anybody remembers Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven follow up, which I'll never understand. It doesn't qualify for this list, it's never mentioned anymore, I doubt anybody watches it, but it. Is. Great. Kevin Costner is awesome in it. No, really. It's got an all-time excellent little kid performance. Clint Eastwood says "I do like tater tots." I don't know what else you people want.

The Piano - Art house fave that won Holly Hunter an Oscar, launched Anna Paquin (also Oscared), and presented us once more with another lingering gaze at Harvey Keitel's junk (no Oscar). You may think I'm obsessed at this point but for about three years that guy would just NOT keep his damn pants on. Anyway. This film is absolutely gorgeous and haunting, and though I think it's more admired than watched these days, it's not forgotten.

The Remains of the Day - People keep talking about how brilliant Anthony Hopkins was in this. I guess I'd better go watch it again. Eighteen-year-old me saw it in the theaters and hasn't thought about it since, but then eighteen-year-old me had considerably different tastes.

Rudy - So the little runt gets a sack. Was this movie any good? It must have been at least a little. It keeps getting brought up.

Schindler's List - Wow. I think this movie is absolutely amazing. I don't want to see it again. We'll talk more about it down the page a bit.

Searching For Bobby Fischer - Highly under-rated movie about life, fathers and sons, expectations, talent, and chess. I think this one has just enough love to make the list . . . for now.

Short Cuts - Every single working actor of 1993 appeared in this movie (seriously, check out the cast list on IMDB), one of the early "everybody is connected" ensemble films later epitomized by lesser movies like Crash and Babel. This one distinguishes itself from those in that it is good. Vintage late-period Robert Altman, this one.

Sleepless In Seattle - Horses, horses, horses. Um. Sleepless is ridiculous. People still like it, though, because Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are charming together. But for real, she leaves her fiancee the day before her wedding to meet some dude she heard on the radio. That's fine, she doesn't have to stay with a guy that she obviously is ambivalent about, but she just dumps the poor guy and doesn't even bother telling him. Years later, in You've Got Mail, we're also expected to have the warm fuzzies when Meg Ryan falls head over heels for the guy who crushed her business and her dreams. Nora Ephron is messed up. Is she Zac's mom?

So I Married An Axe Murderer - The best of all Mike Myers movies. You want to argue? OK, fine. First of all, Stephen Wright, Phil Hartman and Alan Arkin all have very funny cameos. Next, they use Big Audio Dynamite on the soundtrack. Also, features the "look at the size of that boy's heed" scene and some great parodies of beat poetry. Finally and most importantly, no sequels that recycle the exact same jokes. Check and mate.

Three Colors: Blue - The first entry from Krzysztof KieĊ›lowski's beloved Three Colors trilogy. It lives on with art-house fans and cineastes, if not in the mind of the larger movie-watching public. Juliet Binoche is fantastic in this portrait of grief.

Tombstone - Does Val Kilmer at least get a Best Supporting Actor nomination if there's a do-over? This was a pretty stacked year (DiCaprio, Ralph Fiennes, Tommy Lee Jones, Malkovitch Malkovitch), but he at least gets a nod, right? He IS this movie, and gives one of the most entertaining performances of the year.

True Romance - Um, where to start? The only Tarantino script to still feel like a Tarantino movie without the benefit of QT's direction. Christian Slater at his career apex (which doesn't sound like much, admittedly, but man, he's good in this movie). Brad Pitt as Floyd. Gary Oldman as Drexel. Michael Rappaport as Dick "shoot 'em! get 'em" Ritchie. James Gandolfini in a dry run for Tony Soprano. Bronson Pinchot in a hilarious turn as total LA movie scum. All this, yes, and more. But the most indelible takeaway will always be Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper sitting in a darkened mobile home, understanding each other perfectly."I'll have one of those Chesterfields now, if you don't mind." Chills.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape - No movie with this title will ever be forgotten. Also was the point of entry for many movie fans of a young actor named Leonardo DiCaprio, who's still sort of trying to be this good again.

Schindler's snifter. (OK, just one. I'm only human.)

And the Time-Delayed Oscars Go To . ..

Best Picture

Real Nominee List: The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, Schindler's List, The Remains of the Day

Today's List: Dazed & Confused, Gettysburg, Groundhog Day, The Piano, Schindler's List

I have less doubt about this than any other movie of this decade. Schindler's List rightly took the big prize in 1993, and it would clearly win again today. Some fault Spielberg for bringing to much of his trademark gloss to a Holocaust movie, other detractors have opined either that a story that is about survivors fails to face up to the horrible reality, or that the subject is just too serious for the form. Allow me to make this point: That's stupid. Schindler's List is shattering, almost relentlessly grim, steeped in both sadness and defiant humanity, one of the most perfectly-calibrated movies of the decade (OK, the 'Schindler's farewell' scene is a little too schmaltzy, but it's the exception that proves the rule). Schindler himself remains one of the most fascinating biographical characters in movie history, a manipulative and exploitative war profiteer annoyed and almost ashamed to discover he possesses a slow-burning conscience. Ralph Fiennes gives what is (to me) the best performance of the year. And if you scoff "*cough* manipulative *cough*"when the descendants of the Schindler's List Jews come over the hill ... I don't know what to say to you.

My Pick: Schindler's List


Tom Hanks won for Philadelphia, a well-meaning movie that teaches us that gay people are Just Like Us. Also, AIDS patients are People. The message is true, but it all just seems a little quaint today. His 1993 Oscar basically kick-started Hanks' run through the nineties as our greatest actor, but I have to tell you, I don't think he'd win the re-do. Anthony Hopkins is greatly admired for The Remains of the Day, but he just won for Silence of the Lambs. I'm calling it for Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, a rare win for a purely comedic performance. Murray's only become more respected as an actor over the years, and his performance in 1993 is now recognized as one of his best. The movie would fall flat without Murray's subtle shifts of attitude between different iterations of nearly identical scenes, acting as signifiers of his current mental state: disbelieving, frantic, suicidal, and, finally, accepting. Watch all the Ned Ryerson scenes and be amazed.


Holly Hunter is awesome. Also, she was awesome in The Piano. Also, I'm tired of writing so much. Let's let her keep her Oscar, unless you have other suggestions.

What was the best movie of 1993? Go vote at FilmChaw!

Play Survive Donkey Island - Registration Open

OK, the first Donkey Island tournament is now open . What better way to start a donkey tournament than with a one dollar rebuy?

Here's the banner and info.

Survive Donkey Island 001
Full Tilt Poker
$1 + $1 Rebuy
February 13, 2011
9:30 PM EST
password: survive

Pimpage is most appreciated.

There are three contestant spots left! Just ship $20 to BuddyDank on Full Tilt if you want to compete in the Donkey Island last-longer. Join me, Hoyazo, SmBoatDrinks, Katitude, Heffmike, Edgie212, Highonpoker, Riggstad, iaatg6296, Numb Bono, Xkm1215, BrainMc and Very Josie in competing for a million . . . well a thousand . .. um, like a few hundred bucks.

It's Poker. It's Survivor. What else do you want?

Remember, this tournament series is open to everybody, not just Donkey Island players.  Come play donkey poker with us!

Schedule, contestants, and full description of Donkey Island here.

Your Weekly Dose of Awesome

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Your Weekly Dose of Crazy

This is not an effect that is easy to get used to.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

The_Goat_Suggests 001: Erfworld

Image by Xin Ye
Another day, another new recurring series. As you're probably aware, there's a ton of good stuff on the Internet. The idea is, here's something that I think is totally awesome, and you might not even know about it! Let me share it with you. Then you'll know about it, because of me. THEN I'll be cool finally!

Seriously, you should check this out right now if you haven't already.

Today, I'll be talking with you about ErfWorld, an ongoing fantasy web-comic by an immensely clever and talented fellow by the name of Rob Balder, who is able to nest cleverness inside of cleverness inside of cleverness in a way that leaves me occasionally wanting to clap, alone, in front of my computer.

Let me give you an example.

No, wait. First, let me set up the plot.

The comic is set in the land of Erfworld, a fantasy world full of amazing creatures and characters and places, all of whom seem to be based, to a greater or lesser extent, on puns items and people and characters and web memes and 70s television shows and breakfast cereals from our world. Let me give you a few ideas. One of the lands is named Hagar, home of Prince Sammy. Prince Sammy of Hagar, he wields a mighty axe. Or again, as our story begins, the forces of Erfworld are fighting to protect their home fortress of Gobwin Knob, led by their soon-to-be slain Chief Warlord, Manpower the Temporary.

Here he is . . .

Image by Jamie Noguchi

...and there he goes.

Manpower's untimely death leaves his boss, Stanley the Plaid, usurper and ineffectual leader of Gobwin Knob, in need of a new warlord. To this end Stanley enlists his chief croakamancer, Wanda, to cast a spell to "call the perfect warlord." Unwilling to pay for the service fee on the spell, he gets this guy:

Image by Jamie Noguchi

This is Parson Gotti, whose name is an anagram of "protagonist." This is a "hint." Parson is a portly young man and Kinkos worker, by most metrics a big loser from our reality. Parson spends most of his spare time and all of his considerable intelligence playing and thinking about role playing strategy games.

This makes him the Perfect Warlord because it just so happens that Erfworld IS a turn-based, role playing strategy game. A great deal of the fun of Erfworld is watching Parson as he gradually learns the rules and mechanics of the game in which he finds himself, and the various ways in which he learns to exploit those rules to gain massive advantages within the war he suddenly finds himself. Non-battle conflict arises as Parson realizes that he is almost certainly being manipulated by forces and factions unseen, and begins to wrestle with the flesh-and-blood-and-mass-murder that comes with being a very successful warlord.

I'll let you read it without introducing Prince Ansom of Jetstone, or Jillian Zamussels, or Vinny Doombats or Sizemore Rockwell, and I'll let you discover how gorgeous the art is for yourself. Let me leave you with a joke that so far hasn't even been told or acknowledged, a throwaway that is there waiting for you to find it:

Image by Xin Ye
The current storyline involves (without giving much away) Parson using a game rule that causes a heavy rider of a dwagon (Erfworld's version of a dragon) to rapidly sink. Surprisingly, without warning, all the dwagons drop out of the sky.

Its a dwagon drop.

A dragon drop.

A drag and drop.

Go read Erfworld.

Time-Delayed Oscars 003: 1992

OK, enough with the intro. You know the drill by now. Let's look at a year and see what movies have lasted.  I think you'll agree with me that 1992 was a monster year.

The brothers of Delta House, from left to right:
Flounder, Otter, and the Duck of Death

Here's a list of ALL the movies of 1992.

Aladdin - It's a Disney movies, and not many of those fade away into Bolivion, not when they're hooked into the biggest marketing-assimilation machine the world has ever seen. This one is notable for a song ("A Whole New World") that truly embodies the quality "puke-tastic", some standard-issue Disney racial stereotyping, top-drawer animation that still holds up, and a bunch of hack pop-culture references from Robin Williams that have really, really, not.  Worse, those dumb insta-dated jokes have become the new standard for kid's movies. Shame on you, Aladdin.  Shame on you.

Bad Lieutenant - Harvey Keitel became famous in the early 90s for frequently going middle-aged full frontal in defiance of both the tastes of the audience and the will of a loving God. This movie was sort of the beginning of that. It's also remembered by some as a searing portrait of faith and mercy amid moral squalor, so it's got that going for it. Keitel is great in this; Little Harvey, even the ladies agree, is pretty much entirely unnecessary.

Basic Instinct - Wow, was this a bad movie. But Sharon Stone shows her business for approximately 3 nanoseconds, so this was a major hit. I just mentioned genitals in back-to-back paragraphs.

The Crying Game - Make that three. 1992, the year of the genitals!

Batman Returns - I don't think that anybody remembers much of this beyond Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, but she was totally iconic. In other news: Michael Keaton played Batman. Twice. Was Matthew Broderick unavailable? Can we get a Congressional investigation on this?

El Mariachi - I almost left this out, but Robert Rodriguez's debut keeps coming up mainly because he apparently made it for seven bucks and a bag of cold McDonald's cheeseburgers. Has anybody seen this?

A Few Good Men - Seems like it must be the most-quoted movie of the year, and also of the year before it and after it. An enduring classic that totally skims over what a reckless and almost criminally negligent lawyer Tom Cruise is (they annoyingly make Demi Moore's superior officer attorney ineffectual and borderline-stupid to try to cover up the fact that Caffey is a hack). Remember how he was in the shadow of his legend lawyer father, but then by the end, he'd surpassed the legend? Remember how Tom Cruise used to get this Top Gun subplot shoehorned into every single movie of his? Anyway, Jack Nicholson delivers one of his best performances in a long career of great performances and just steals this movie from everybody. Some people even forget that he's the bad guy. In fact, he's basically Dick Cheney, so I'd have to say a large part of the country forgot that he's the bad guy. After all, we want him on that wall. We NEED him on that wall. And we can't HANDLE the truth. Let's not forget that in movieland, that's the guy who gets carted off to jail. Ahem. Off my soapbox now.

Glengary Glen Ross - A sleeper in 1992, David Mamet's take on the soul-death of (five) salesman has grown into a true cult classic.  If A Few Good Men isn't the most quoted movie of the year, then it's this one.  In fact, thanks to Alec Baldwin in a career-defining walk on performance, this IS a more quoted movie than Men. A cast so talented that it's almost a joke (Alan Arkin in what seems like 8th billing; Jonathon Pryce in a bit role) headlines some of the most hard-boiled dialogue and darkly comic ever captured. "Who told you that you could work with men?"

The Last of the Mohicans - Say my wife and I are at the mall.  Say we decide to go to different stores, and then meet up a half hour later.  There is about a 90% chance that I will look at her with a barely contained and almost feral love, a love born of desperation, and breathe: "Stay alive. I will find you."  So I remember this movie for that. I also seem to recall that the last 30 minutes of this were pretty amazing.  Anyway, this movie happened before Daniel Day Lewis decided to typecast himself as a scary megalomaniac with a mustache who enjoys long walks on the beach, hording money, and murdering people.  Not that I dislike that aspect.

A League of Their Own - "There's no crying in baseball!" will keep this movie alive forever, but it's a genuinely worthy sports movie, and much much funnier than the "very special episode" would lead you to believe. Also? This movie also gave us Rosie O'Donnell, and everybody is very grateful, I'm sure.

Malcolm X - Denzel Washington is out of control in this. It's a Spike Lee joint, which means that it is sometimes overly didactic and occasionally silly when it means to be earnest, but it is never boring. Still remains one of the most interesting and unconventional entries in the biopic category among major releases over the past couple decades.

My Cousin Vinny - This movie gets unfairly maligned, ironically because of its success -- namely, in winning a surprise Oscar for an at-the-time unknown television actress named Marisa Tomei. I think it's high time we reassessed Ms. Tomei's career in light of a couple decades of solid (sometimes Oscar-nominated) work. Also, it wouldn't hurt to stare at her for a while. A long while. Where was I? Oh yes, this was a very funny movie. Joe Pesci can be a little too broad in comedies, but in this one 'broad' was very much the point.

The Player - A stylish return to form from Robert Altman.  Tim Robbins stars, and Hollywood plays itself.  The self-conscious opening tracking shot aping the opening shot from Touch of Evil is itself now the stuff of legend.

Reservoir Dogs - Huh, what do you know?  So this was a year that screened A Few Good Men and Glengarry Glen Ross, it yet it turns out that neither of them is the most quoted movie from that year. Along with Glengarry Glen Ross, this is movie that has gained the most ground since it came out, but Dogs has wedged itself much further into the collective subconscious.  Quentin Tarantino's debut can now be seen in the context of his career so far, and Dogs is clearly not just a flash in the pan or an intriguing start from a promising young director; it's an opening salvo from the world's most prominent cinematic remix artist.  With its crooked time-line, hilarious pop culture dialogue, and trend-setting retro score, the QT template was fully in place. But the true value of Tarantino -- the fact that all the flash and style is in service of something -- is also there already, as an inverted moral code masticates our notions of the role of protagonist (cold-blooded killer Mr. White) and antagonist (principled undercover cop Mr. Orange).

A River Runs Through It - And thus begins the merciless reign of King Brad Pitt. You know how in medieval times, the king could sleep with your wife on your wedding night? King Brad Pitt is like that, except in this case, your wife doesn't mind. This is not progress. This movie is boring but pretty. The cult of Brad keeps it somewhat alive.

Scent of a Woman - HOO HA! This movie (from the director of Meet Joe Black and Gigli) was awful. Al Pacino sort of saved it and now sometimes people think it isn't awful, but you have to trust me on this. It so thoroughly is. Chris O'Donnell is Bland. I don't mean that blandness is a quality of his. I mean that Chris O'Donnel is Bland. Kind of like how God is Love.  The ending, while rousing in a HOO HA! sort of way, makes no sense at all.  The central conflict is sort of dumb. The protagonist (Charlie) is unlikeable.  Are you getting a sense of how I feel about this film?

Single White Female - This pot-boiler has been completely forgotten, I think, except that the term 'single white female' still is used to mean 'creepy friend who emulates you too much' or just 'crazy roommate.' So there's that.

Unforgiven - One of the all-time great Westerns; in a way sort of the Last True Western. Almost certainly if one were to ask for the best movie Clint Eastwood ever directed, this would be the consensus pick. It won Best Picture in 1992. It's hard to believe that something could unseat it.

"Kid, what did I tell you about interrupting me during my squintin' time?"
And The Time-Delayed Oscar Goes To . . .

Best Picture

Real Nominee List: The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howard's End, Scent of a Woman, Unforgiven

Today's List: A Few Good Men, Glengarry Glen Ross, Malcolm X, Reservoir Dogs, Unforgiven.

I'll be honest:  I think Unforgiven still takes it down, but it's pretty close.  A Few Good Men is still warmly remembered -- in fact, Jack Nicholson might filch Best Supporting Actor from Unforgiven's Gene Hackman in a do-over -- and more timely now than it was when it debuted.  (What are we willing to become to feel safe from our enemies?)  Reservoir Dogs and Glengarry are also contenders.  But Unforgiven is undeniably great.  It's the year's Big Damn Movie, and it earns every bit of its praise.  Still, I'm very interested in how this vote will shake out.

My Pick: Unforgiven (but Reservoir Dogs is very close)

Best Actor

This could get dicey.  I have already been clear (crystal) about how I feel about Scent of a Woman.  On the other hand, it can't be denied that Al Pacino, who took his only golden boy for this film, is magnetic.  He's the only reason to watch this movie, and it's a pretty good reason.  Also, if he hadn't won for this, there isn't much else after for which he could have won.  The guy really should have an Oscar, so I'm fine with him winning his award for polishing a turd.

Nevertheless . . . let's consider our premise here.  This is the Oscars if Hollywood were able to do it from a more sober remove of 10 years.  If that were the case, my friends, I submit to you that the man who was Michael Corleone (twice) and Tony Montana and Serpico and Daniel Day Afternoon and many others would already have won an Oscar.  I mean, really, 10 years after the fact, is 1974's sentimental favorite Art Carney playing an old guy who loves his cat still beating the star of The Godfather II ?

I don't think they Academy would need to honor Pacino here.  I think Al would already have his hardware.  And it can't be denied that after Scent, Pacino has been stuck in HOO-HA mode, maybe forever.  With each passing year, his performance looks less and less like a revelation and more and more like the hammy sign of things to come.

What I'm saying is, I think the award goes where it should have all along: Denzel Washington in Malcolm X.  He was ferocious, amazing, it was his best performance.  It was the performance of the year.  It was one of the performances of the decade.  Hook the brother up.

Best Actress

Emma Thompson won for Howard's End.  Now, Emma Thompson is a fine actress, and I'm sure she was quite good in this, but do you know what I never hear anybody talk about at all, ever?  Howard's End.  Would you watch this on purpose?

It was a hard year out there for actresses in leading roles, though.  I am scanning for something that would be a surefire win.  Thompson may take it by default, but I think that Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns might have a shot.  You know what?  I think it goes to Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny.  Hear me, now:  It was a lead role, not supporting.  She was really, really good in it.  And it's  finally starting to sink in that she's a fantastic actress.  Tomei is my pick.

What was the best movie of 1992?  Go to FilmChaw! Your country needs you to vote!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Your Weekly Dose of Awesome

I promise you one thing today, and that is this:

You have never been as metal as this guy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Survivor: Donkey Island Is Here!

About a year ago or so I was mulling over a prop I had going with Bayne on some season of Survivor or other, and I suddenly had an idea. An inevitable idea. A great idea? Maybe. Maybe not. I guess we're about to find out.

Survivor + Poker.

A poker tournament in which the runners are playing normal poker, but are also playing for a prize pool that would be won along the lines of the popular/awful reality granddaddy, Survivor.

So here's the tentative plan.

I'm hosting the Donkey Island tournament series for a while.

Donkey Island
Full Tilt Poker
NLHE (Probably) $1 + $1 Rebuy (Probably)
9:30 EST Sunday
Starting February 13

Some things to note:

1) This will be a typical poker tournament on the Private tournament tab, open to all. You don't have to play the Donkey Island competition to play the tournament; however, you obviously also won't be involved in the competition for the additional prize.

2) If you do want to play the Donkey Island competition, transfer $20 to BuddyDank on Full Tilt Poker (first letter of city "C"). The first 16 entries will be accepted. Subsequent entries will be returned but the people who sent them will get right of first refusal if we run it again. Entries will form the prize pool.

If you are a contestant, these will be the rules:

* You will be randomly divided by Buddy into Team Fish and Team Donkey.

* To easily distinguish yourselves as contestants, choose the FTP avatar that corresponds to your team during event play.

* Each Mookie/Dank (Wed. 10:00 PM) and each Donkey Island (Sunday 10:00 PM) will be an event of the prop bet.

* Team play. For the first six events, the contestant who runs the deepest in the event and his/her entire team is immune from elimination. The losing team must vote one of their members out of the competition. The person receiving the most votes will be out of play and out of contention for the prize. In the case of a tie, the loser of a heads-up match between the two potential eliminate-ees will be out of play. Stakes and poker variant for the heads-up match is up to the contestants; play chip matches are acceptable.

* Individual play. After the 6th elimination, the teams will be merged, and all "contestants" will be required to vote one person out of the competition. The contestant who runs the deepest in the event will be immune from votes. Same tiebreaker rules as before apply.

* Final event. When there are only 2 players left, the contestant who lasts longest in the final event will receive 40% of the prize pool.

* Prize vote. The 14 previously eliminated contestants will vote on which of the 2 players should receive the remaining 60% of the prize pool.

* How to vote. Votes must be in prior to the event for both teams. Votes can be sent to Buddy Dank via IM, email, or on-air at BDR. Once you send your vote, it is official and cannot be rescinded. Votes for an immune person will not be counted. Votes sent after the start of an event will not be counted. In the odd case that a person who receives 100% of the votes is immune, the eliminated party will be the person who has the most prior votes. Ties will be handled in the way already laid out.

* I don't want everybody to feel like they have to grind out every event; thus it is not necessary for "contestants" to play every event in order to be able to vote. However, you obviously will need to play an event to win the last-longer for that event.

* Smack talk and blog rants are highly encouraged, provided they are funny.

* Using IM and texts and other media to form alliances and plan backstabbing are highly encouraged.

* Deals to chop the prize pool after the fact to wrangle votes is forbidden. We can't enforce this, but come on. Don't be lame.

* There are probably contingencies and ambiguities with this thing that I haven't thought about. Buddy Dank is our lovely host, and will be making any judgments and rule changes as needed to navigate oddities as they arise. To avoid conflict of interests, Buddy won't be playing. No one man should have all that power.

And that's it.

Schedule of Events

Team Play

Event 1..........Donkey Island.......Feb. 13 (16 contestants)
Event 2 .........Mookie/Dank....... Feb. 16 (15 contestants)
Event 3 .........Donkey Island...... Feb. 20 (14 contestants)
Event 4 .........Mookie/Dank....... Feb. 23 (13 contestants)
Event 5 .........Donkey Island ......Feb. 27 (12 contestants)
Event 6 ........ Mookie/Dank....... March 2 (11 contestants)

Individual Play

Event 7 .........Donkey Island....... March 6 (10 contestants)
Event 8 .........Mookie/Dank........ March 9 (9 contestants)
Event 9 .........Donkey Island....... March 13 (8 contestants)
Event 10........Mookie/Dank........ March 16 (7 contestants)
Event 11 .......Donkey Island....... March 20 (6 contestants)
Event 12 .......Mookie/Dank........ March 23 (5 contestants)
Event 13 .......Donkey Island ...... March 27 (4 contestants)
Event 14 .......Mookie/Dank ........March 30 (3 contestants)

Final Event

Event 15 .......Donkey Island........ April 3 (2 contestants)

Your Weekly Dose of Crazy

So last week Hoy commented (quite rightly) that crazy and awesome were sort of blending together, with the awesome so crazy and the crazy so awesome that it was hard to distinguish betwixt the two.

Fair enough.

So how about Vladimir Putin, Russian Prime Minister, former Russian president, former KGB head, a guy who could kill you by looking at you and who has probably done things that make Hostel II look like The Parent Trap, singing "Blueberry Hill"?

Crazy enough for you?


OK then, I guess I'll have to find footage of him singing it to Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Politics 002 - The Ism Prism


So let's imagine that I tell you, "Joe is a conservative, and Bob is a liberal."

What did I just tell you? And what do you think I meant by it?

I would say it really depends on your perspective.

Imagine that I walk into a room in which two people are sitting, and tell them "Joe is a conservative and Bob is a liberal."

I think it is entirely possible that first person might very clearly hear me say, "Joe is a heartless ignorant racist son of a bitch who doesn't care if the world goes to hell, or how many people suffer and die as long as he can have his guns and his tax break, while Bob is a very reasonable guy who understands that we need to look at things rationally and responsibly in order to solve very complex issues."

It is just as likely to me, I think, that the second person might just as clearly hear, "Joe is a principled guy who understands how the world works and is willing to stand up for reality in a degraded and equivocating world, while Bob is a hate-filled idiot who is willing to ignore the most simple facts in favor of his pre-programmed narrative, and more than willing to sell out his own family to Nazis if it will help him to make himself feel superior to others."

Joe is part of the problem. He's destroying the country, on purpose, and he's doing it selfishly. Bob is part of the solution, a ray of hope in a dark world.

No wait. You've got it exactly right, except you need to reverse those names, buddy.

Now imagine you are one of those two people. Imagine that you understand yourself as a conservative. Imagine that you understand me to be a liberal.

I say to you "Joe is a conservative. Bob is a liberal."

You now understand Joe to be a good fellow, and Bob pathetic at best. You also understand that I am saying the opposite about both guys, and you respond to that meaning, using your own meaning. I respond in kind.

We haven't even started the conversation, and yet somehow already we aren't having the same conversation. Parallel lines do not meet.

What I am trying to do is explain precisely why I do not find "liberal" and "conservative" to be very useful labels. When they are used, I try to become more precise. Let's first get to what you mean by "conservative" and "liberal." The national dialogue has already gotten so unraveled. I propose we try to trace the thread back to the source. What are our underlying assumptions and definitions? What assumptions inform our differing conclusions?

This usually comes off as either mockery or willful obtuseness. This informs me that I am not very artful at asking these questions yet. It also suggests to me that refusing to accept the received definitions of various words that we have used to neatly categorize reality is not usual, or comfortable.

Two weeks ago, I referred to these assumptions as an operating system. Today, let's talk about it as a lens through which we watch the world. A cracked lens, splintered, prismatic.

What are the subterranean divergences that manifest themselves in these desperate arguments regarding the temporary and the trivial?

I have an idea. But bear with me and be patient; my glasses are broken. I can only see part of the picture.


Bear with me. I'm going to be pretty obvious for a second. Just let me work through this until I have caught up to the rest of you.

Sometimes, a person kills another person on purpose. I don't think anybody is disagreeing with me yet. Sometimes, a person kills another person on purpose.

But before that, a person decides to do it. "I will kill this person." Then they do it.

But sometime before that, a person thinks, "Somebody ought to kill that person." Then they think "I will do it." Then they do it.

But before that, that person thinks, "The world would be better if that person was not in it." Then they think, "Somebody ought to kill that person." Then they think, "I will do it." Then they do it.

But before that?

Before that comes contempt.

(I didn't think of this way of stating it, by the way; the pastor of the church I belong to to which I belong did, years and years ago.)

Before the act, and the decision, and the thought that somebody should make that decision, and the notion that it the world would be better if the act were to happen, before all of that, comes contempt. And we're swimming in a vast sea of contempt, all of us. And we're drinking it and feeding it.

Contempt waters murder's garden.

Contempt is a constant gardener.


As I've said, I've tried to work out the underlying assumptions behind all our rhetoric. The roots of our tree of contention, if you'll allow another tortured metaphor. The following represents the best that I can perceive and communicate my perspective on this:

There appears to be a way of perceiving the world that states that the world is a competition between different types of people, and that the differences that divide one type from another is more important than any similarity. This, I think, is the root underlying assumption of contempt.

The actual difference being used to divide between people is sort of immaterial down at this level, but whatever difference is chosen, they all are ways of seeing the world that use as their prism a key difference, and competition of some set of resources that are seen as finite.

Racism isn't fear and hatred for other races, you know. Racism is simply a way of looking at the world, which states that the differences of race are more important than human similarities, and that the races are in competition as a result. This is why it's entirely possible to be friendly, or even consider oneself friends with, somebody of a different race, and still be entirely racist. Racial hatred and racial fear and mistrust can come of racism, of course. It probably eventually will. But if you think that those things ARE racism, then you have confused the symptom with the disease, doctor.

We can use any other Ism we please, really. Sexism. Feminism. Islamism. Christianism. Capitalism. Socialism. Fascism. Libertarianism. Caucasian-ism (I know, I know, it's generally called White Pride but let me keep the parallelism). Afrocentrism.

The Isms. They are all the same way of seeing the world, and they all sing the same song: Our differences define us, and there is competition between these differences.

Fundamentalists that want to kill each other are much closer to one another than to almost anybody else, philosophically speaking.

Some of these Isms come from a place of power and are applied to the powerless, and these will quite naturally and easily create inequality. Some of these come from the position of powerlessness and are applied against power, and if equality is your bag, these may be useful for a time -- perhaps a long time -- as they create space for equality. If equality is not really your thing, than these will seem pretty bad. But even if equality is your thing, eventually an Ism will reveal itself for what it is: a fundamentally divisive way of looking at the world.

The most extraordinary things sprout from this. Do you know that in the United States, the law itself used to think it was perfectly OK to buy and sell and use a human being like livestock? You probably did know that. There was this idea, see, that our differences were more important than our similarities.

It's a pretty standard and understandable way of looking at the world, really. I mean, think about it. Whether you are a fern or a jellyfish or a woodpecker or a red-assed baboon, natural selection is pretty much a big competition that is all about spreading YOUR genes. Not somebody else's. YOURS. May the best man win? Nonsense. The best man WILL win. Period. It's coded into nature itself. Why wouldn't we be subject to that, when literally everything else that we observe is? Why wouldn't we be trying to win? Why wouldn't we be competing to pas on our genes. Our genes. Not somebody else's. And why end at genes? Why wouldn't our ideas be subject to that? Isn't Ism-ism the only sane way of looking at the world?


Our differences are more important than our similarities, says the Ism-ist.

Those people, says the Ism-ist. They're really creating quite a problem.

Those people, says the Ism-ist. It would be better if they didn't exist.

Those people. Somebody should kill them. They have it coming.

Those people. I will kill them.


Welcome to Earth.


So there is another way of looking at the world, right? If Ism-ism is one prism, there must be another prism, right?

Sure there is. There is an idea that perhaps there is more than competition as defined by our differences. There is an idea that our similarities are more important than our differences. To be clear, this is not a worldview that states that there are not differences between people, or even that those differences might not be significant. It's simply that they aren't more important than our similarities. Let's call this worldview the Whole prism.

Here's the good news about the Whole prism, if it happens to have captured your imagination. It appears to be winning. We've mentioned that years ago, as our country came into being, it was considered perfectly lawful to buy and sell human beings like cattle. It's not like that anymore, not in parts of the world that are considered civilized. It was considered perfectly appropriate to engage in talk or imagery that was openly contemptuous of other races. Now the pickaninny cookie jar with the fat lips and the shiny black face and the pie eyes sits in grandma's kitchen, as embarrassing as a fart during Sunday dinner. It won't be passed down through the generations. We used to think that wives were property. We used to think that lynch mobs were the way to go. We used to think that a good fag was a dead fag.

Imagine what we might think, tomorrow, about what we think today.

By "we" I mean humans, by the way.


Oh no. You aren't trying to make a case for your side right now, are you? You're not nodding your head, or shaking it. Anticipating I'm about to make one side the Ism-ist side. I'm about to make the other side enlightened. MY side, to be precise. This is the point where I tell you that MY side is the enlightened one, and the other side is composed of a bunch of divisive Ism-ists.

The thing is, there is a paradox to the Whole prism.

"There are two types of people: People who divide people into groups, and people who don't. I am one of the latter."

You can't say this without contradicting yourself.

The first thing you must say if you hope to use the Whole prism is this:

I am an Ism-ist.

I am an Ism-ist. I've been captured by the idea of the Whole prism, and I try to shape my world view through it as best I can, and I support those causes and people who I feel best reflect the ideal of it, but I am an Ism-ist all the way. I divide people up into groups all the time. I see the world as a competition. I try to win. I want to beat you. I have never slid all the way down the Ism-ist slide to the act of killing a person, but I am amazed at just how far down that slide I can get. I am an Ism-ist. We all are.

Can we all proceed together with a bit more mercy for one another's stupid ideas, now?


The question now becomes, "If nobody really lives by the Whole prism worldview, how could it be winning?"

I submit to you that Ism-ism is how we actually live.

But the Whole prism is how we dream.

It moves slowly, tortuously, through our shared history. Sometimes it shuffles agonizingly backward. But the trend is toward an eventual emergence. To me it is very much like the cosmic birth of some new order.

If you are subscribe to a Christian tradition (as I do), you might think of this as the movement of the Holy Spirit.

This idea is radical. It contradicts nature itself. There is no competition. Differences are not as important as similarities.

If you are of the scientific mindset (as I am), you might think of this as humanities next evolutionary leap. A leap beyond natural selection, perhaps. Or perhaps an evolution of ideas. Our evolution points to it, I imagine at a horizon a thousand years away. It's moving that way. And if it is moving that way, then it stand to reason (my reason, anyway) that it is the best idea.

Ism-ism is the way it is. It's a very realistic way of looking at the world. But it slides toward death. Perhaps natural selection has realized (Unlock Achievement: Anthropomorphize Natural Selection) that Ism-ism is no longer a winner for us as a species.

Think of the stories that inspire you, the people that inspire you. Which mindset seems to have captured them?

I hope it is safe to say that today, we all have a dream.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Time-Delayed Oscars 002: 1991

I’m enjoying taking a trip through years past; right now it seems likely that I’ll move back to 1980 – 1989 after I’m through with 1990 –2000 retrospectives.

After reading through the comments, I think a few points of clarification are in order. First, if I list a movie as a “survivor”, it doesn’t mean that I think it is good or bad; it just means that I think that the movie has been collectively remembered. Thus, I’m leaving out movies that I remember very well indeed, but which I think have been largely forgotten. The question I ask myself is: Is it likely that anybody at all is watching this right now? If the answer is “probably not, or, if so, it’s a pretty huge coincidence” – then I leave it off. The result is that I’m probably ignoring your favorite movie. I’m sorry. I’m leaving out some of mine, too. Perhaps we need a Precious Forgotten Snowflake category to this. In fact, I think that The Grifters, which I did mention for 1990, probably belongs to that category.

Secondly, when I talk about whether or not a movie would win an Oscar today, I do not mean “what movie do I personally think is best?” I mean “what movie would the actual Academy of Motion Pictures vote for if they had a chance to vote now, with the benefit of hindsight?”

To be fair, I think I will list my choice for best picture as well. That way you can accurately berate me, if you want.

Thirdly, I was right. The poll shows Goodfellas in a landslide.

Also, Real Dawn Summers voted for Ghost in 1990, yo. For Best Picture. Ghost. Without shame. Best Picture. Ghost.

Can somebody get her some help?

"Hello, my name is Hannibal, and I'll be giving you nightmares tonight. Is
this your first time entering into a symbiotic psychodrama with us?"

OK then. As Prof. Flava Flav, PhD (University of Funkacology) once said “Let’s do this like Brutus, cuz we knew this.”

And here’s the contenders.

Barton Fink – I’m probably going to list 90% of the movies that the Coens have made. As time goes on, and they become more and more prolific, it’s pretty clear that there are two of the major film-makers of our time, and thus their pictures will keep getting revisited. I haven’t seen Barton Fink since it was new on video in 1992, when I most certainly didn’t get it. I have a feeling that 36-year old me would have a different take than 17 year old me. Also, the “We’re going to see an R-rated movie! Barton Fink! Barton Fink! Barton Fink!” joke in The Simpsons remains one of my favorite random-ass pop-culture jokes that show has ever produced.

Beauty and the Beast – Still probably the Disney gold standard. If you like princess movies, and don’t mind ignoring the somewhat squicky bestiality overtones and the fact that the Beast is really a total dick . . . the songs are good. Anyway, my daughters all love this movie, and they love Snow White, which is 70 freaking years old, so I am guessing that Beauty and the Beast will last for a long, long time.

Boyz n the Hood -- Cuba Gooding Jr. before the Oscar and the talking dog movies, and the shame. Ice Cube in jeri-curls. Larry Fishburne. Not Laurence. Larry. Are you kidding? Don't know if this movie holds up (I seem to remember a really head-poundingly obvious STOP sign being used, like, totally symbolically). At the time, there was nothing else like it.

Cape Fear – I think this one is primarily remembered for inflicting Juliette Lewis on the world. Also tattooed Di Niro laughing menacingly and smoking a cigar in a movie theater. Also reminds me of Sideshow Bob stepping on the rakes. This will be the last Simpsons reference, I promise.

Defending Your Life – Underrated Albert Brooks/Meryl Streep comedy that has achieved minor cult status. Enough people have brought this one up to me that I know it lives on.

The Doors – Actually, I don’t know how well this is remembered, if at all. I think it brought back the music of The Doors for another generation, though. Don’t know how your feel about that.

Father of the Bride -- This movie actually hasn’t survived, but it is notable for being the moment when Steve Martin gave up on being funny, and Hollywood began their long slow slide into the Remake Crevice.

The Fisher King – I love this movie. Jeff Bridges is fantastic in this, the first role I saw him in. Tom Waits as a societal traffic light. The thin line between sane and . . . less sane. Robin Williams singing “Lydia the Tattooed lady.” Michael Jeter belting out Ethel Mirman to Amanda Plumber. And, especially, the Grand Central Station dance. One of Terry Gilliam’s best.

Fried Green Tomatoes - This is the movie that let us know that it’s all right to kill a man and serve him to your customers as BBQ if he was really really mean. Also, Chris O’Donnell gets hit by a freight train. Who doesn’t want that? (Spoilers!)

Hudson Hawk – Sometimes utter failure can keep a movie alive in our hearts. Bruce Willis stars in one of the biggest flops of all time. Go back and check it out and tell me it isn’t pure midnight movie fun. Come on, all together . . . would you like to swing on a star . . .

JFK – Back, and to the right . . . back, and to the right . . . back, and to the right . . . Remember when Kevin Costner and Oliver Stone were relevant? This movie’s accuracy has been questioned, and it presents a discredited crackpot unambiguously as a crusading hero for The Justice; nevertheless, it is an electric political/courtroom historical drama, and probably the focal point for modern conspiracy theory. Still a classic.

Point Break – This movie is a great hunk of Velveeta cheez. It has The Busey. It has The Swayze. It has The Keanu. It is completely ridiculous. I. Am An F! BI. AGENT!!

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – Easily the funniest movie of 1991. Kevin Costner is hilarious as a mullet-headed Midwestern farm boy who is under the delusion that he is British, while Morgan Freeman tags along as his long-suffering psychiatrist. Also notable for that horrid Brian Adams song.

The Silence of the Lambs – One of the most well-respected thrillers of the past decades. Sort of kicked off the serial killer movie in earnest, especially the one in which the brilliant young agent has to get inside the killer’s head. We’ll forgive it for that, though, because it was a very, very good movie.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day – I could be wrong, but I think this began James Cameron’s long string of getting in way over his head, spending way way too much on a movie that could never recoup the money, risk his entire career due to his obvious megalomania . . . and then deliver a mega-blockbuster that makes all the money back with a couple billion profit on top. He’s the king of the world, and T2 is still one of the great enduring action movies.

Thelma & Louise – Plenty is memorable about this chick flick meets fugitive movie, AKA: Bonnie & Bonnie. Indelible performances from Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. Brad Pitt’s first major role. Iconic ending. It sort of got shoved into the ‘message’ movie ghetto, but these days I think it’s remembered for what made it memorable: hardcore dwarf sex scenes. Wait, no. Strong performances and cinematography. Heh, um . . . forget I said that other thing.

"A quarterback tried to make a 'pass' at me. I ate his throwing arm with
favre beans. You see what I did there?"
And The Time-Delayed Oscars Goes To . . .

Best Picture

Real Nominee List: Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides, The Silence of the Lambs

Today’s List: Beauty and the Beast, JFK, The Silence of the Lambs, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Thelma & Louise

This is awkward, but we’re entering into a stretch of movies where I think the Academy probably got it right – that is to say, they would probably make the same choice if given the chance again. Silence of the Lambs won in 1991, and it would win a re-vote. It seems obvious that Silence would win in the lineup above; but when you consider that all but forgotten movies Bugsy and The Prince of Tides were considered genuine contenders at the time. (I think that The Prince of Tides got destroyed by the Simpsons episode where . . . never mind). So, good for them for picking the all-time classic over the flash-in-the-pan Oscar bait.

My Pick: The Fisher King

Best Actor: Kevin Costner was so brilliantly hilarious in Robin Hood, but let’s face it, the Oscars are biased against comedic performances, so we might consider him. We’re still not ready to deal with Keanu Reeves’ line readings in Point Break. And honestly, Anthony Hopkins really was a supporting actor in Silence if you go by screen time. The movie’s character arc actually belongs to Jodie Foster. Not that any of this matters: Hopkins dominates his movie; he’s simply playing one of the most iconic film characters of all time. He won then; he wins now. Wow, this is getting boring. Why couldn’t they have given the award to Nick Nolte so I could say, “Can you believe Hopkins didn’t win this year?”

Best Actress: Jodie Foster won for Silence. She was excellent in this; in many ways she gave the more important performance. Her Clarice Starling held the movie together. But she never did that ff ff ff ff lip thing after saying she ate a census worker's liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti, so not as many people remember that it's actually her movie. Nevertheless, she's still not all that vulnerable to reassessment. Her only competition came from Thelma and Louise themselves, but Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon are believed to have split one another’s votes. In the past 20 years, I don’t think there has been a consensus that one was superior to the other. I think these days Linda Hamilton might get some love for T2, but the award is probably still Foster’s to lose.

This was a long way to walk for no sugar. Stupid unchanging 1991.

What was the best movie of 1991? Go vote at FilmChaw!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Your Weekly Dose Of Awesome

So this is pretty much one of my favorite things in the history of things.

You got served, Fiddler-style.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Worst Thing I've Ever Done 04 - Life Is Empty And Meaningless

My own "I ate poo" face.
So, a quick recap.

First, all names have been changed to protect the . . . well, not the innocent. I changed the names, OK?

Second, the plot so far: I'd been commissioned by my buddy Lupo to make a skit show for the proto-YouTube start-up that he was working for. To that end, I'd written a script, and enlisted my old college buddies Lee and Morgan as actors, as well as a co-worker named Yoot, a man possessed of a formidable sense of humor, a love for the booze, and a total lack of experience as an actor. Lee's girlfriend Tiff, a University of Michigan film major, would be directing.

We partied the night before, and planned to shoot all weekend until we had it all in the can. The first skit up was "Commemorative Commemoration of Commemoration", a skit of rapidly escalating absurdity in the (we hoped) Mr Show-style, mocking the odd industry of kitschy commemorative souvenirs from kitschy pop culture and general direct mail-in TV advertising. We planned to shoot it in old age makeup, which made it the most technically challenging skit by far (hence its lead-off position on our shooting schedule).

Finally, we planned to shoot it on location at a retirement facility. Tiff's grandmother's retirement facility, to be exact. Tiff had secured permission and space from the head of the facility, and her grandmother was "really excited about it."

In retrospect, the problems really should have been obvious. You've probably seen it for yourself if you've been reading along.

Here it is.

I woke up early in the morning (10:00 AM was early in the years before parenthood -- everything is relative) to have my bald cap affixed and old age makeup put on. Lee had a degree in theatrical arts, which had included just enough theatrical cosmetics for him to get the job for this, our one "special effect" costume. I was going to be wearing big khakis hitched up under my armpits. My beard was the biggest problem; it had to be gray enough to pass for elderly. That took most of the gray that Lee had, and about 30 minutes, but when it was done, I had to admit that the effect was pretty striking. I was clearly a guy in makeup, but the illusion was there without much suspension of disbelief. Lee and Yoot were similarly successful, though the tufts of hair sticking out of holes in Yoot's fleshy skullcap looked more funny than realistic.

Who cares? I thought. It's supposed to be funny.

"Hey, are you drinking?" I asked Yoot.

"Yep," he said.

It seemed very obvious to all of us that we had to be old. Why did we have to be old? I don't think anybody really asked that question. The answer is, "because old people seem funny." Another is "because my grandfather collected coins, and so my skit's coin-collectors would be old like my grandfather."

I'll give myself this much: I was ambivalent about the idea. Tiff had said that she'd already swung a space with the director, but I still felt odd about going to a retirement community in this getup. We'd have to walk in before we got to our sequestered location, which just seemed kind of gross; a bunch of young kids aping old age in front of the elderly. I found myself wishing that we'd waited to get on location before putting on the septuagenarian motley. Out on the porch, I tried to appeal to Tiff to make a last-minute change.

"What about right here?" I asked Tiff. "We aren't shooting anything else on the porch."

Tiff was adamant. "We need to establish a sense of place. A place where old people would be."

"Yeah, but hey. You know where old guys sometimes sit? On a porch. It would be faster, too."

"We can't control the light in here; there are too many windows. We'll get flares and shadows, it'll take forever. Besides, they're expecting us."

"You're sure they know about what we're coming to do? They have a place for us?"

"Yes, totally. They're really excited to do it. My grandma would be really disappointed if we didn't come."

Not long after, Chad, one of Tiff's friends from film school, arrived, all suited up to play the part of the narrator/commemorative coin salesman. We were ready to go, so go is what we did.

"Are you drunk?" I asked Yoot.

"Yep." he said.

He is funny drunk, I thought. Hope this goes smoothly.

If ever there were famous last words, my friends, those were them. Not one part of it went smoothly. From the start it was a fail burrito the size of my head.

What went wrong, you ask? Let me tell you the things that went wrong.

The first thing to go wrong was the arrival. As we opened the doors and walked in, I knew that we had made, in the words of Gob Bluth, "a terrible mistake." The doors opened onto a spacious and sunny common room, which was (and this really was a predictable element) absolutely chock-full of old people. Old people who were clearly not expecting to see a cluster of young people striding in with cameras and lights and poles and props and . . . are some of them dressed up as OLD PEOPLE??? WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY STRUCTURED AND ORDERLY DAY?

You ever have that feeling that you would like to disappear? I desperately gestured to Tiff to find the head of the facility to take us to the dedicated and sequestered area that I believed against reason had been set aside for us, so we could shoot without feeling like scum.

Grandmother arrived, a small, frail lady. Tiff went over on the other side of the room and spoke with her. Grandmother seemed very confused by what was happening.

The second thing that went wrong happened within a minute as it became apparent that a) the head of the facility had almost no idea what Tiff was planning to do, and b) no dedicated and sequestered area to shoot. I couldn't hear what she and Tiff were saying to each other, but from the gesticulating and body language, one thing was clear: we were leaving. This sounded like the best thing in the world to me.

The third thing that went wrong was that we weren't leaving. Tiff came back with a smile plastered on her face.

"It's OK," she said.

"Um . . . It didn't look OK."

"It's totally 100% fine. There was just a conflict that came up so we need to hurry. We have an hour to shoot."


"Sure, right over here." She pointed at a corner of the common room where a huddle of loveseats squatted next to windows just as large and sunny as the ones in the porch back at the house. The porch. I longed for that porch, so quiet and calm and completely empty of staring old people, as a thirsty man longs for water.

"Tiff, look," I hissed. "I want to be supportive, but I really think that this is a bad --"

"Cool," Yoot chirped, and copped a seat. He seemed oblivious to the crippling social awkwardness, the wrongness of this. All over the room, confused old people were shooting us glances and whispering. Lee took a look at his girlfriend, normally one of the most level-headed people he knew, who now had the sort of maniacal disciplined fanatical certitude of a cult leader or Francis Ford Coppola on the set of Apocalypse Now, shrugged at me, and sat down.

The fourth thing that went wrong is that I sat down too. This is the part of the show where I should have walked. But I had agreed to support Tiff, and hey! -- maybe this was just how these sorts of things were done. I felt like I was floating to my loveseat. We were really going to do this. Tiff gave me a cane and I leaned on it and tried to relax. Grandmother was standing across the room, holding on to the back of a couch and watching us with what I hoped was pride.

OK, this one we're actually planning to read off cue cards,We'll shoot it fast and get the hell out of here.

This reasoning proved to be faulty.

Here's the fifth thing that went wrong: Everything else.

Yoot, who didn't know any better and actually didn't realize that he was doing it even while he was doing it, wouldn't stop looking at the camera during the take. The camera, meanwhile, would run out of batteries after about five minutes of shooting and have to be recharged for ten. We had to shoot twelve takes of one segment (recharging three times) and Tiff shouting at Yoot STOP LOOKING AT THE CAMERA! and I leaned on my cane and tried to pretend that I wasn't there and all the while grandma watched and the assorted elderly muttered. We were a hubbub. Our bald caps itched. Yoot's was beginning to tear. All I wanted, with a yearning that was almost physical, was for this to be done. I didn't even care anymore that it was quite obvious that the footage would be practically unusable. Even if by some miracle we could salvage the skit, it would be a very weak skit.

I made a character choice. I would be the old guy who was asleep the whole time. That way I could close my eyes and not see the elderly, their regular schedule disrupted, looking and murmuring and shaking their heads. Just sleep and then wake up to say your line and then . . .

The line. Oh God. That line. The line.

For me, the horror had intensified.

There was a point in the skit, when the high of collecting all 12 commemorative plates for the Golden Girls had worn off, and our characters were depressed and left wanting more, when all three of us would have to give the line.

"Life is empty and meaningless."

Now . . .I wasn't trying to say that the lives of old people were empty and meaningless. This sense of ennui was meant to be the more universal deflation after over-consumerism.

However. We were three young guys. Who had dressed as old guys. And walked into a retirement community. And were now going to have to say, while pretending to be elderly people ourselves, and loud enough for the microphones to pick it up clean and clear, "life is empty and meaningless."

It was fairly evident that it was not going to come off as a comment on pointless consumption.

Why did I do it? Why not just shut it down, say 'I'm sorry, this is clearly not working out' and just walk? I don't know. Honestly, as I remember it now, it seems like a trance of false justification. We'd come so far. We were so close to done. All we had to do was shoot this line, some fills with the narrator, and the final shot with the chocolate coin mean to stand in for the final ultimate commemorative coin, and we were done. I guess I stayed for it because I had stayed for the rest. Once you're up to your forehead in quicksand, what's the scalp as well?

So I stayed. And, with grandmother leaning on the couch and everybody else watching, I said it.


"I did NOT!"


He had.

"Shoot it again."

"Look, I don't care if he looked at the camera. This is really bad. Let's just move on."


So I said it again. If you do it once, you can do it twice, right? The room was full of retirees. Grandmother was watching, still leaning on the couch, watching with what I was pretty sure as not pride. She looked flustered and confused. We were 20 minutes over our hour. Tiff was talking with the head of the facility, who looked like she might be about to call the cops.

Tiff came back. "OK, she said, we have ten more minutes. Where's the chocolate coin?"

There was a terrible stillness. Then Yoot said:

"We weren't done with that?"

Yoot had eaten the coin.

"Not all of it!"

"I'm going to kill your friend," Tiff informed me. Yoot seemed unperturbed. I leaned on my cane and 'slept' while the battery charged. Tiff was talking with her grandmother, who was clearly very agitated. I heard Tiff say, "Just WAIT, grandma."

And then grandma pointed right at me, and in a voice as loud as an angel's trumpet yelled:


Sometimes realization comes to you in bits and pieces. Sometimes it comes all at once. And sometimes it tears into you like a polar bear and eats your guts out of you while you're still alive.





So there it is, folks. The worst thing I ever did. I walked into a retirement village dressed up like a parody of an old man and stole and old lady's cane, forcing her to stand and watch for over an hour as I mocked her and her friends. I hope to never top it.

I just about broke my neck rushing to give the poor lady her cane back. I may have apologized to her over twenty times. Tiff did not suggest that it would ruin the continuity of the skit, which was wise on her part. We shot the coin scene with a poor sad crinkle of gold foil and chocolate scraps in Chad the narrator's hand. I stopped pretending to be asleep and instead pretended to be dead. Five minutes later, we were out of there.

You might say I was at low energy for the rest of the shoot. Luckily, it was mainly smooth going from there. We got a spare battery that held its charge. We shot in controlled locations with minimal distractions. We actually put together a couple skits that are close to succesful and occasionally a little bit funny.

But the first skit we shot, the one where my soul died? It was terrible. We went through hell to make one of the worst things ever made. It's an apotheosis of bad acting, stilted editing, jokes that just die on the vine like poison grapes, and sheer incomprehensibility. Watching the video now, I am struck by the extent to which we absolutely failed in any way to capture the fact that we were on location. We could have been anywhere. We could have been in a hotel lobby. Or a coffee shop.

Or a porch.

So, what did I learn from all this? I've learned that artistic collaboration is very hard, and making even a medium-quality program (which is at least three marks higher than we were able to hit) is the sort of thing that can make you crazy. It's much more fun to watch than to do. I've learned that you have to know to put your foot down when things have very obviously turned for the worse. The thing is, Tiff is a really genuinely nice person. I think she just got an artistic idea in her head and let it take over for a couple hours, and as the meticulously-appointed furniture of "how it is supposed to be" got kicked over and mashed, I think she let it make her temporarily crazy. I know I must have been temporarily crazy myself to think this was a good idea. So, I've learned that there are worse things you can be than an actor who argues with the director. I've learned not to dress up in old age makeup and go to retirement communities to shoot skits.

Most of all, I've learned not to accept strange canes.