Saturday, April 25, 2015

Quick Thoughts On Bruce Jenner

Dozing off around 11, trying to digest my odd meal of sushi, mashed potatoes, salsa and the last of my iced coffee. Don't judge. We all judge. Two hours (I believe, I didn't watch) for Bruce Jenner to come out to a world that will call him a hero or freak, but why is he doing this on TV. If he is doing for the most noble of causes, which is to help others, then yes, a hero is not too strong a word. I have more thoughts on this, but want to see how this plays out in the next few days. A book and interview tour will show me he's no better than the family he surrounded himself with. Funny how the most poignant words of encouragement are alleged to have come from Kanye West, who must himself feel like a pariah as should his wife, but I don't think she gets it.

But here's why it simply doesn't matter. Bruce Jenner is asking a world that knows him as an Olympic Men's champion, to accept the fact that he has lived his life wanting to be a woman. He's asking the same world that consists of no less than seven people who called the players on the Pittsburgh Penguins girls, faggots, sissies and ask if their vagina(s) hurt. So if being a woman is seen as a negative to so many men, how can a woman who feels trapped in her male body ever be accepted? The answer is, she will never have that luxury, Ever. And that is why it is so important that Bruce Jenner not stop with this single interview, but selectively pick important times to champion his cause. If he can get those seven people down to six, he will be a hero. Yes, a hero.

Friday, April 24, 2015

My Movie Problem

Over the past few years, I've had two friends with whom I can discuss film in detail. I have many friends I can talk to about this film or that, but it's hard to find someone to discuss film in a way, where the simple dissection of one film turns into an elongated discussion on genre, social commentary and film as a true art form. Twitter gives me glimpses of these discussions, but I've found most tweeters are so genre specific, I find myself posting notes to no one, hoping for a response. I rarely get them. I do have a few people who can discuss at length, but this is very rare. Even those people I see now, seem so distracted by other things, they never really get what they've seen until reading a professional review and hearing someone else's thoughts. For me, that's not a passion, it's simply faking it.

I watched three films in eighteen hours yesterday. An action thriller with a subplot of how our mind works and what would happen if we could expand its use. The second was a documentary on the Hadron Collider and the Higgs Particle. It delved into the importance in understanding how all matter was created. It's basically the scientific equivalent of meeting god. Finally, I saw a New Zealand coming of age tale. A young boy, his deadbeat dad and the odd circumstances that occur in this child's awakening. Three very different films and three I'd have to scour the earth to discuss with one person. This pains me.

I assume it pains me the way bookworms look at me with disgust when they ask me if I've read this or that and boast how little I've read in the past twenty years, yet they find it odd I can discuss topics covered in those books. I read constantly and I want to learn, but I don't have the patience to curl up in a chair and commit hour to one book, when I can cook a meal, sip coffee and watch three movies in the same time. I wish I could speed read, because that would motivate me. Sadly, it seems these days, I can't speed-anything.

It's always tough when nobody you see on a daily basis shares your passion, but I think I've tried so hard over the years to share others, I sometimes forget how much these things mean to me. I've long thought about how to pursue a career in film in some manner, but I hold it in such an odd place in my head and in my heart, it's hard for me to envision it. I want people to see film like I do. I don't want a review to tell you the killer or even the plot. I want you to figure it out for yourself. I'm tired of the word ambiguous to describe ending, because the writer, director, actors and everyone else involved had a clear vision and if you didn't get their vision, they shouldn't allow you that pass. They should demand you understand it and if you don't, at least discuss it. 

I guess it's not just entertainment for me, when the curtain closes, because even some of the bad ones stay with me for days, trapped like a bird, dying or flying away. Bukowski's bluebird perhaps. I just want to feel what Toto felt at the end of Cinema Paradiso, but be able to share that feeling with someone else who understands and not be alone with it like he was.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review - The Babadook vs A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Horror movies have been getting a lot of hype lately and I was lucky enough to see two in the last few days that have received a ton of it. Thankfully, despite the hype, I've managed to stay away from any huge spoilers. I had thought the ending of The Babadook was ruined for me by a tweet, but in an all to common circumstance, I lucked out when the person posting completely misunderstood the film. Something I'm finding most people do these days with all films, but especially in horror. 

Both films deal with loneliness in very different ways. One takes the traditional route (AGWHAAN) and goes for the popular genre driven take on it and the other goes in a completely different direction and decides to look at depression and mental illness, one could even say PTSD. Both films use light and dark setting to convey a real sense of reality and use the proven method of something lurking in the shadows to haunt, more so than violence and gore.  The problem is, neither works on that level. That isn't to say one isn't a good movie, but it needs to be digested and becomes more effective after it's done, where as the other one loses it's way and in my case the viewer's attention.

The Babadook is gut-wrenching by the time you are done and it's every parents worst fear, becoming the monster you hope to protect your child from. It uses a children's book to depict the mental breakdown of the mother and we're never quite sure where the film is going, until the final scene. What's most important to the success of the story as a whole is to realize why the things that might frustrate us at the beginning are happening. Without going into any details that might spoil the experience, if you find yourself annoyed by one of the characters, this is entirely the point and when you realize why you start to feel anxiety when they are on screen, you realize how well done the film is. I won't lie, this film didn't resonate with me until two days after watching and now I realize, it's one I must revisit in a few month or maybe years. It may in fact turn out to be hurt so much by the hype, that I'm missing the reality, which is it is in fact one of the finest horror films ever created. 

This leads me to A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, which for some inexplicable reason is being compared to the Babadook. The film is not in any way similar other than it is dark. It is filmed in Jarmusch-esque black and white and even has the restrained dialogue of his films. The problem is, it is never sure what it wants to be and it's a problem that leaves the viewer feeling as if the message is still stuck in the writer/director's head. It is supposed to be an Iranian Vampire tale, but it feels like the movie is taking place in East LA in a barrio run by Ukranian mobsters. As ludicrous as that sounds, it's nothing compared to how ridiculous it plays out. The film fails in that it never allows to understand why anyone is where they are and why we should care. It uses cliches such as vampires living off the weak and somewhat sympathizing with the sad and lonely, but it never makes us care about them. Each character seems to have material things they love, but when faced with true attachment, we're left grasping. The final scene of the film wraps it up nicely and by nicely, I mean, we don't really know why they must be where they are or how, but we do know we don't care. The only thing that stands out is the lovely star, Sheila Vand, who is limited by no real lines and the director's odd take on what her desires are. 

The real problem for both of these films is that we want to care about the lead characters and we don't. While the Babadook is completely different in it's approach, because we're asked to empathize, not care, it still failed to have me embrace Essie Davis' character until the final moments. Had I realized three quarters of the way through, then I would have felt something, but then again, it would have completely taken away from the ending. In the other film, I never care. Not even my primal self, when she is at her weakest and most vulnerable (or was this just nudity for the sake of nudity?), was I even a slight bit interested in her how, what, where and whys. Even more distracting is the male lead, who we're never asked to question how he got to where he got without anyone noticing, but a little boy. If that last sentence has you scratching your head, let it, because it wraps up the irrational view the movie takes. And people, if you hear any comparisons to Only Lovers Left Alive, please slap that person for me. 

If you're looking for entertainment, see the New Zealand horror-comedy Housebound. If you want a thought provoking, sad horror film, see The Babadook and if you want to impress your man-scaped, Radiohead loving, cafe crowd, claim you loved the cinematography and depth in A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.  I'll be over here waiting for Pascal Laugier to come out of the shadows and make another damn movie.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Four Walls

I remember the first time I ever went away from home on my own. A friends house for the weekend. Somewhere about an hour, maybe two, from our home in Brooklyn. I was only worried about the evenings, as I was a chronic bed-wetter as a child.  Despite one accident, made easier by an understanding friend who had just overcome it himself, I had a great time. I learned to ice skate, he had a cute older sister and his mom made us hot cocoa, it seemed liked every 2 hours. The thing that eased my mind was knowing "home" was so close.  Throughout my life and I'm sure, most of yours, trips are always fun, but one of the best parts is being back in your own bed, your own kitchen and with the familiar surroundings that comfort you. I don't have that anymore.

People used to laugh when I'd describe my old apartment. It was tiny and awful, but it was my safe haven until it was ruined. It was my shelter, with a bed, a fridge and a bathroom. Within those four walls I realized that life isn't about what we collect it's about what we can do without. Towards the end of my stay there, I lived without the things most people call essentials. I didn't have a good light to read from, nor did I have cable. I didn't have an oven that worked and my room was cluttered with crap, but it was crap I needed (to some extent).

Now I'm away and while I still have four walls, which is more than many, I am not comforted by them. It might feel this way, because they aren't truly mine or it may be for other reasons. I think the reason I don't have that comfort is because I don't have places to go. I don't have days that are spent away, looking forward to those four walls. I don't have friends calling (texting) to come over or to meet out for drinks. I don't work to bitch and moan about, although my old job made me happy, so who knows. I don't understand the feeling of wanting those four walls anymore and it didn't start in Ithaca. It was taken from me. It made me realize that we're really simply creatures.

I sat tonight, alone in the kitchen, sipping hot coffee at midnight and I thought about the silliness of materialism. Coffee, bagels and hummus. An occasional steak. A tomato and onion. A movie. My phone. A roof and four walls. It's all I need to survive, but being able to leave and want to return, is really what I am missing.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 NBA Playoffs - Predictions (Is the league still fixed?)

I don't watch the NBA, because it's fixed. It has been since the the rise of MJ and the all the rules that went into the game to make him the greatest player of all-time. I'm not knocking MJ, I'm knocking David Stern. I know a few things about the man personally from his neighbors in Scarsdale that would make your skin crawl, but I'm not Perez Hilton and I don't have a team of lawyers to defend me, so I'm sticking to my predictions. I also think this new commissioner is a straight shooter, so I don't think we'll see as many phantom calls as in the past. It's literally up for grabs...almost. Stars still sell and the NBA is desperate for ratings, because nobody likes the sport anymore, they just love the jerseys. So here it goes. I haven't watched more than 20 minutes of the NBA all season, so who better to trust with your predictions?

Eastern Conference
Round 1
Atlanta over Brooklyn in 5
Washington over Toronto in 5
Cleveland over Boston in 5
Chicago over Milwaukee in 4

Round 2
Washington over Atlanta in 7
Cleveland over Chicago in 6

Conference Finals
Cleveland over Washington in 5

Western Conference
Round 1
Golden St. over New Orleans in 4
Memphis over Portland in 6
Houston over Dallas in 6
San Antonio over Clippers in 7

Round 2
Golden St. over Memphis in 5
Houston over San Antonio in 7

Conference Finals
Houston over Golden St. in 7

Cleveland over Houston in 6

Friday, April 17, 2015

My Sherlock Holmes Moment

I've been watching the BBC version of Sherlock and while I love Mr. Holmes' (played by my new man-crush, Benedict Cumberbatch) ability to read people, I find it somewhat funny that they chalk this up to some intellect. It's merely being perceptive. Most of us think we are, but the reality is, we miss so much. This is never more evident than when people post something without realizing what the article is actually saying. This isn't about you, the people that drive me batty...not this time. This time it's about me and a funny night.

I was in a bar and a girl sat down and we struck up a conversation. I was aware she wasn't interested in me, but she also didn't want to sit and stare at sports. She was overdressed for the bar she was in and in the course of about 45 minutes to an hour, she allowed me to know more about herself without her even knowing it. The strange thing was, despite her being very attractive, I never felt any physical attraction to her. Mainly, because of everything she threw out inadvertently.

Within about 20 minutes, I realized that despite her aesthetic attempts at glamour, she had no money. I bought her a drink and from the size of her sips, I realized this drink was going to last her the hour. She wasn't interested in me and despite her starting the conversation with me, I realized she wasn't looking to mooch. This told me she was biding her time and awaiting the arrival of her friends. During the conversation, she continued to make assumptions about me and nearly every one of them was wrong. I asked if she was a psych major and she said she was. I warned her that what she learns in textbooks doesn't equate to an ability to see these things. So once she felt as if I was telling her how to do her future job, she somewhat turned on me. She guessed I was divorced, with kids and worked outside. I told her to be careful analyzing people, because they might do it back. Finally, as she got to the end of her drink, she challenged me. She said "OK me." And this was when I went into full Sherlock mode.

I said "You're obviously meeting someone here, but you thought it was nicer or you wouldn't have worn that dress and your nice jewelry, You don't normally wear the bracelet, because it's summer and despite your tan, you don't have any tan lines on your wrist. You also took off a ring you normally wear, which I assume means you're recently broken up with someone, but still wear the ring they gave you." She started to slouch and I continued. "You also suffer from bulimia, which I'm very sorry about, but it's quite evident. You have split ends, which in itself isn't a tell-tale sign, but you have your your right pointer finger is a little ragged, even with the polish. This is from making yourself vomit. You decided to major in psychology, since you think having a psychosomatic disease somehow gives you some expertise in the field."

Around this time, I realized I was pretty much on the money, so I started to slow down. Oddly, she told me to continue. "The guy you're meeting either is very late or not coming, because you've checked your phone only once, but it must not have been him, but you have glanced at the clock over my shoulder about twenty times. It's about 10:05 now, so you're pretty sure he isn't coming, since he told you 9:30. You are also frustrated, because you got you hair done just for this date." She stopped me and said "Oh, why you think my hair would be a mess otherwise?" I said "Of course not, you're a pretty girl who is very self conscious about her appearance, but if you brushed your hair right before you came in, there would inevitably be a stray hair on your collar line or shoulders and there isn't."

Right about then, she got up and said she had to leave. As she did, she turned in her chair and was facing me. She said "I'm not saying you're right about everything, but I just want you to know that this is probably why you're single, because you're a know it all. I also hope you realize that you never had a shot." She started to walk away and I said, "One more thing. I know I didn't, but he really screwed up, because he had more than a shot, he had a sure thing." She walked back over and said "oh, let me hear this one." I said "If he wasn't you wouldn't have been so particular about your undergarments, but you're not wearing a tiny thong or some regular panties, you're wearing a very nice pair of white lace panties and a matching bra." Girls wear these types of things to weddings, grandma's birthday and when they are going to go home with somebody." I won't say what was said, but I was right. I'm guessing about everything, but who knows. I do know one thing, I know jack squat about reading what women say, but I can read body language and other things.

I hope this wasn't too long-winded, but it's a better story than the time I told a girl that she was going to give a guy blue balls and when she asked me why, I said "because you're dressed to the nines, but wearing a sports bra and granny panties,  because you have your period." She was a good friend, so I just got a laugh and slap and then "I fucking hate you."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Movie Review - Interstellar

Before you go on...I am not a Christopher Nolan fan. I preface this silly blog entry with this statement, because his fans are insane. They get confused thinking his name is an anagram for something. They think and over-think every scene and fail to watch things like credits and opening scenes, which he is infamous for giving almost everything away in. Interstellar is no different. First there are the books, the title, the dust, some names, the odes to every sci-fi film ever made and that fucking Dylan Thomas poem over and over again. Seriously, anyone who has seen a handful of films, read handful of books, paid attention in History class and puts their phone down for a few seconds, will not be astonished by the complexity of the film. They'll be bored to tears at it's obvious and never ending metaphors.

I won't take anything away from the acting. McConnaughey and the girl who played young Murph are very good. The rest of the cast is adequate, with a nice little surprise cameo about halfway through. But here's the real problem. There is never a feeling of urgency or understanding from the characters and if you're really being honest, you need that to care. The movie is almost three hours long and it feels like seven. There so many homages, that for a film fan, it's irritating. I'm sure I missed a number of the book references, but the obvious ones were in the first ten seconds. Some are just silly, like Anne Hathaway's character's name or the robots STAR & S(P)ACE, sorry I mean TARS and CASE or KIPP...the writer of the book it's based on is named Kip Thorne, who happens to be the guy who Stephen Hawking lost the bet to and had to buy Penthouse. See The Theory of Everything, a much better movie.

Listen, I'm not saying people won't find things they like about it. There are also some who might be shocked by every twist and turn. I don't need to make myself feel smart by bashing this, I can bash all of his films for that, but Nolan doesn't work for me, because I pay attention. Sometimes too much attention. I have never and will never understood the reason for "Easter Eggs" in movies. Why the hell would you want some random thing written on a wall or some sign in the background giving away the plot twists? Why not just let them happen? This ruined Shutter Island for me in about 45 seconds and since then, I've been so keen on noticing these things, it destroys so many films. This is why things like The Usual Suspects and Stalker are brilliant. I'll stick to those and I have to admit, I don't think I'm rushing out or putting the next Nolan film anywhere near my Netflix queue. Oh sure I will, because I'll want to say I figured it out again.