Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June Movies

I slowed down quite a bit in June. Lots of reasons, but mostly my mind has been in a negative place and I don't enjoy watching movies when I'm in a bad mood. That being said a few gems this month snapped my out and despite watching three movies that are deemed to be in the top ten off all time (Tokyo Story, Man with a Movie Camera, The Rules of the Game), the best movie I watched all month was A Separation. I'll probably put it in the top 2 of the past five years and definitely in my top 50, maybe even 40, ever.

  1. Warrior - Hardy and Edgerton are sensational as brothers fighting for very different reasons.
  2. Oldboy (Original) - Re-watched. Still one of the greatest films ever made.
  3. John Wick - One of those movies which may be so bad that it's good. Hint: It's not.
  4. Afflicted - Found footage road trip turned vampire tale. If you don't mind the fatal flaw it's fun.
  5. Borgman - Danish psychological "horror" looks at class systems with a devilish twist.
  6. Tokyo Story- Ozu. Family. Simplicity. Brilliance in every facet of film making imaginable.
  7. Hot Girls Wanted - Disgusting, exploitative doc about amateur porn. Praised by Sundance???
  8. Army of Darkness - Campbell is great in over-the-top third part of silly horror trilogy
  9. Wadjda - First female directed Saudi film is beautiful, with incredible acting by young lead.
  10. Willow Creek - Easily one of the 2 or 3 worst movies I've ever watched.
  11. Man with a Movie Camera - Considered one of the greatest of all-time, but the music???
  12. American Sniper - If FOX was in charge of military recruitment videos, this would be it.
  13. The Past - Flawed, but superbly made drama of three lives, hindered from moving on.
  14. Leviathan - Brutally slow Russian tale,  ruined by its simplistic, monotone nature.
  15. Kill, Baby...Kill - Bava's masterpiece is atmospheric, but the acting takes away so much.
  16. The Sunset Limited - Cormac McCarthy's disheveled play, misses on every mark.
  17. Timbuktu - Weak subplots, subtitle alignment and flow, kills beautiful moments. 
  18. The Guest - Awful script, plot and acting equal an all-time worst nominee.
  19. Late Phases - Pulls no punches. Goes from start to finish with just a fun, well acted story.
  20. Deep Blue Sea - Re-watched - One of my ultimate guilty pleasures.
  21. Mother - Korean award winner didn't do it for me. All been done before and better. 
  22. A Separation - Iranian masterpiece. One of the most perfect films ever made. 
  23. The Rules of the Game - Renoir's acclaimed masterpiece inspired the craft, but not this viewer.

Monday, June 29, 2015

June - Lightning Round

Was that the fastest month ever? The NBA and NHL finals were over two weeks ago. Seems likes two days ago. Even the Charleston shooting was a dozen days ago. So many old TV and movie stars were still alive at the beginning of this month and while they're still in our minds, we all await the next loss. It's not morbid curiosity, but it's the world we live in. Social media makes tragedy seem like a daily meal, as we wash the dishes, we're already thinking of the next one and what to have with it.

A month ago, I didn't have a cat. A month ago, I was a lot less happy as I am now and that scares me. Without this cat, I have pretty much two things that make me happy. My private conversations with those who make me laugh and movies. They are the only two things I seem to have left that bring me any kind of joy and yet, I'm not complaining. Apparently, my problems are nothing to those who air all their dirty laundry on Facebook. Mothers and fathers, who by all rights, should probably have their children taken away. Anyone insane enough to post as much negativity about their lives, probably shouldn't be in charge of children. Narcissism is one thing, but when it starts to seep into patterns of the children being sick, it frightens me. These are the tell signs we always read about when some crazy parents drowns their kids in a tub or drives their car into a lake. It's terrifying to think of. I've held that phone many a time, but I know all too well how CPS will react. Facebook isn't enough proof.

So I try and block out the negativity and I feast on the daily messages from my friends who make me happy. Many, who hide problems much greater than mine, but feel comfortable enough to share. Their secrets are safe. I hope they know. I value their friendships much more than they can imagine. I often wonder how people who were part of my life and I theirs, go on every day without me. I don't mean that in a conceited way, but I know the lack of seeing two friends, maybe once a week has given me worry. Worry, because we were close and each value close friends. I do love them, even if they don't know it and I fail miserably at showing it. This month has gone by so quickly, it never dawned on me it's been a month since I've spoken to anyone on the phone. It's been a month since my brother returned and yet we've spoken only once, for seconds, if that.

Life is not short. I've said before, it's an incredibly monotonous journey and sadly we spend more time doing things out of necessity than pleasure and that is where we fail as a species. We are so worried about the end game, we fail to play this one. Sure some think they do, but can you imagine their lives. Can you imagine waking at 5AM and the entire day being about making sure nothing comes between you and your defined abs? Can you imagine eating a meal made out of byproducts and food dried into a powder, because you believe it's natural? So many of these people kid themselves and believe that 30 years of living a normal, maybe even reckless life, can be turned around by going for a run and eating salad. Nobody I know who has endured has ever thought twice about what they did to their bodies and that might just be the secret. I don't mean any disrespect to those who might think I'm jealous of their "V" or their leg press, but I've known very few people who are obsessed with their appearance, who don't suffer from huge esteem issues and emotional problems that border on manic. I actually worry about these people, because they are an injury or simply age creeping up on them, away from battling depression. I speak from experience.

A 100 year old woman, swished a scotch in between her teeth and gums, she pretended to smoke a cigarette, as she had for 75 years of her life and she asked what was for dessert. She then nibbled her grilled cheese, dripping in butter and said "Life is really long and I've lived it." Maybe June wasn't so quick and for a change, I just lived it. We'll see. I'm not even at the halfway point of what she experienced and without sending out any false cries. I've had enough of this one, because I lived it. I don't want to keep repeating it for another 45 years, because if I have to, I'll be hoping for a lot more months like June.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Couple Of Tips For My Facebook Friends (and Myself)

I won't lie. I'm a bit of a snob about things on Facebook. I know all of you (for the most part) and at one time or another, we've shared some time together. I've been away from every single person I know for almost a year now (6 days away) and I've actually learned more about people than ever before, because I'm forced, out of desperation to stay connected, to pay attention more than ever. Some of these "tips" might just be things I learned about myself, but most are actually kind thoughts for people who are truly making themselves look bad.

Filters and Photoshop - My dear female friends. What a picture looks like on your phone is one thing, but for many of us on computers, your selfie taken three feet from your face is hilarious. I realize we're not all perfect, but trust me when I tell you, your blemishes and bags look less ridiculous than your poorly airbrushed head shots.

Relationship Statuses - You're all in your 30's and 40's right now, so trust me and everyone who is both happy and miserable, you don't need to jump into the status section. I know people who have changed their relationship status and who they are dating, as many as six times in a five month period. It's a mean world out there and people talk. Relax, get to know your beau in the real world and when you're both ready to commit to each other exclusively, then you can update that status. No need to enter the info after that first date. Make sure you've at least met each others pets before you click that "in a relationship" button.

Spelling & Grammar - Teacher and self proclaimed "published" authors. Do you know how many people judge you when you make an error? Do you know how quickly your mistakes run through the direct message world and how much you've become the butt of jokes? I would never name names, but I have one friend who was so adamant about Common Core being taken down, she blamed the world for her being judged. The one problem with this is her attacks usually contained sentences like "I don't no who they think their." Also, if you're a "published" author, who can't put a cohesive sentence together and doesn't understand the meaning of 2nd grade words, please ask a friend to help, I'm not friends with one person, who thinks he's one of America's finest poets, but he's been posting hashtags about "Instragram" instead of Instagram for months now. It might also help if he knew how google worked and stopped being duped by poetry contests you pay to be a semi-finalist for. I don't mean this man any harm, I've heard he's a sweetheart, but I feel for the fact he doesn't have any true friends to point out these things. He's only going to get hurt.

Parents Complaining = Kids Sick - This is a no-brainer. People who complain incessantly, cause stress. They cause stress to themselves and to their families. If you're compounding this by complaining on Facebook, you're causing even more stress. Especially if your kids have access to Facebook. Listen, we all have stress, but you know what? The ones who have the most don't really use social media to voice it. There's an old saying about how when someone always has issues with everyone else in situations they're in, it's probably them. I do know one thing about this world and that's how kids think. If they see one sibling getting attention, even negative, they want it. So when you post nineteen times that you were up all night with little Joey, little Emily is going to want posts about her. So she's going to make herself sick. This then becomes a cycle and these parents, you all know who they are, spend their entire time complaining and the kids never get well. Funny how that week at grandma's or camp or even at the spouse who left always seems to rejuvenate them, but they're back to their illnesses a few days after their return. Kids are sponges and what ever they soak up, they'll carry for life. Remember that.

The Side Bar - If you have a phone you don't see it. If you have a computer, you do. So don't like my tribute to the nine dead in Charleston one second and then let me find out you just posted a racial rant on Conservative Tribune. I'm not threatening anyone, but wouldn't it be a shame if your boss or supervisor saw that?

Shoulders - I'm always here for any of my friends. I mean always. I think I've gone above and beyond for some and talked to them at wee hours of the night, when things seemed impossible. Some I've simply done what I can, not knowing if it is really any help and others have helped me. Their time and patience is cherished. One thing I don't like is those who only seek me out when they need something, then go months without so much as a hello, a like here or there or a comment. I'm not doing anything for likes or comments or hello, but if I'm the one you always come to in crisis, the least you could do is acknowledge me in some way when things you've dug yourself out of that crisis. Whether I've been of help or not.

Choices - I've mad some really stupid relationship choices and damn if Facebook doesn't remind me every day. The things I see, hear and I'm told by those who know I'm blocked by others, makes me wonder how the fuck nobody kicked me in the head. I've dated some people who really turned into horrible human beings, bad parents, selfish, desperate and I've also dated people who have become the greatest people in the world. Sadly, those people were the greatest and I was too busy chasing those on the first list. I've also learned that if I was better looking, better off and better mentally capable of having a relationship, I'd be hitting on a lot of my friends. I flirt, but damn, there are some real catches out there guys. Stop wasting your time on the girls ten years younger, who think Pontius Pilate is an aerobics instructor. Go for the brains and the mental stability, because that's what makes relationships last. Book smarts are fine, but when you see someone comment on the Broadway play and baseball game they went to and how excited they are by the Star Wars collectibles they want, but they also take great lengths to share their feeling on Charleston, you know they are someone you should be going after. The fact they're hot as can be also, well that's just a bonus. I know that old adage of "if I knew then," is cliche, but wow would my life be different. Then again, who knows, like I said before, if things are always going badly because of someone else, maybe it's time to look in the mirror.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review and Analysis - Cormac McCarthy's The Sunset Limited

Cormac McCarthy is considered one of America's best novelists of this generation. Let's be clear; being one of America's best novelists of this generation, is like being the executive vice president of a company with eight people. It's a nice title, but it's not really worth much. McCarthy has been around for a while, but not until the Coen brothers came out with No Country For Old Men, did he become a household name to anyone not professing to be living in the literary world.  I've never sat down and read any of his novels, but I've read enough excerpts to know, he's Americana and if you're anything like me, you know this is a kind word for crapola. It's bubble gum and Coca-Cola, collecting license plates and going to tag sales. It's what rich white kids write poems about, thinking they've invented the wheel, but not realizing those wheels were once made of wood, maybe even stone. McCarthy has a way with words that impresses the easily impressed. The Coen brothers made him look like a genius.

So, the movie version of The Sunset Limited came across my eye and I rented, more for someone else than for me. Somewhat hoping they'd see what I saw, without ever knowing what I would see. But I did. When your consumed and impressed by mediocrity, because of the writer, you think everything they touch is powerful, rich and deep. It is none of this. What it is, quite simply, is a lot of repetitive gibberish. The play is 90 minutes long, where three things are told. God is good, there is no god and why are we alive (to serve god or to be a cog). Now this might sound like a profound battle between theology and mere existence, but it's not. It's not even close and this will eat at you for exactly three minutes after it is over. The time, it took me, to fill my cup and slice a piece of cheese.

Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L Jackson star in this version and let's be honest. For most of us, this is a can't miss duo and I'll admit they are fun to watch. There are moments of levity, not so carefully rammed in between the supposed serious stuff. Now, some will say "you obviously didn't get it" and maybe I didn't, but more often than not, this isn't the case. This was bad, not because the subject matter, but because of how it plays out. The key problem is, if we're to believe what we see, Samuel Jackson is being played the entire play, because non-belief always wins, because it has no rules. There in lies the biggest problem and the biggest misunderstanding. Non-believers, who are devoted to their shunning of organized religion, have a much harder time quantifying their beliefs, because there is no scale of goodness for them to measure up to. Believers, simply go by whichever book they choose to believe in and when faced at the crossroads, go whichever way they believe is just, knowing confession and repenting is available, should they stumble. Non-believers, have regret, failure and must live with the consequences and they build.

Much like writing, which quite possibly this play could be a metaphor for, this looks at two paths. The one that can be corrected through faith and the one that needs black and white answers, The battle of course, is that those with intense faith, foolishly believe their choices are black and white, based on righteousness, when in fact, it is simply dumb luck whether or not their actions work out. Non-believer, realize it's about acquiring information and then making a decision and each wrong decision is time wasted. Sure we learn from it, but that isn't in this play.

The reality is, nothing is in this play. It's belief in a life saved and belief that life can't be saved, because it's all about what happens after. The problem is, and some might say this is the brilliance of the play, is that the one who wants the after, isn't the one it's supposed to be. Or is it?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Wegman's Hoax

The #1 Supermarket in America!

Sorry folks, but I'd rather eat dog food. Whenever I tell people I'm in Ithaca, they all say "ooh, they have a Wegman's. You're so lucky!" Well, I've been on this earth for forty-five years and only one in Ithaca and I've gotta tell you all a little secret. The country's greenest, hipsterish, coffee house loving, artsy fartsy, organic city has one small problem...there is nowhere to get decent food. The restaurants I've been to all suck, except of course, for the one Thai place that once won best Thai food in the state. The baked goods are about the worst you'll ever taste and the pizza is revolting. Thank heavens for Wegman's, you'd think.

Here's the thing with Wegman's. Maybe they get good cuts of meat, fish and chicken in. The problem is by the time you get it to your table, that "use by May 13th" label has been changed numerous times. You open up that beautifully, CO2 sprayed salmon, with it's beautiful orange hue and immediately you're hit with an odor like no other. How does a $16/lb porterhouse go bad within six hours in your fridge? Why is it that the second you open that plastic and look at the side that's against the styrofoam, you see nothing but grey? Every single time.

Don't even get me started with the produce, for which they are world famous. Bright tomatoes, you'd sweat were heaven sent. Apples, so golden and delicious, they'd tempt Eve a second time. Lettuce, so green and crisp, it snaps when you bite it. Close your eyes though and you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. To make matters worse, these so called delectable picks from some garden are painfully expensive.

So, as my year in Ithaca commences, I sit atop a throne, unable to leave for the third time. This time it was the salmon. I should have known by the smell, but I the date on the label said it was OK. I was fooled again, by my trust. I know people will say, "write them," "complain" and "don't tell us, tell them," but what will they do? Give me a gift card for....Wegman's?

So as of 6/23/15. I will no longer eat any proteins from Wegman's. Give me Maine Source, Tops or any other "low class/affordable" supermarket, because I'm done! Wegman's looks clean on the outside, but looks can be deceiving. Their food is nothing less than disgusting and even worse, it's technically poisonous. Well maybe that's a stretch, but I know this. The pain and suffering I went through....AGAIN...won't happen again. I'll sustain myself on rice if I have to, but no more Wegman's for me. Another F You Ithaca day! This place just can't get any worse.

Next...the weather. Only place on earth not in the Amazon where the humidity never goes below 98%!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Most Will Disagree Without Reading: Why I Despised American Sniper

Let's not waste any time arguing how much of this movie is fact and how much is fictitious. We know that Chris Kyle's unfortunate death could have easily been prevented, had he not been put into a situation with someone suffering from mental illness. Not PTSD, which the movie claims to be about, but mental illness. Mental illness not stemming from any war action, but something much more home grown. If you can't agree on that, then facts aren't your thing and you should probably just roll your eyes, call me a commie, traitor or whatever other false label makes you feel better about your ignorance. That being said, this is probably the closest part of the movie to the truth and it's not even seen.

The movie, according to Clint Eastwood is about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's important to note this was not at all what the movie was intended to be about, until Eastwood was criticized for glamorizing a hired killer. One who had it in his bones, since childhood. A truly disturbing early scene, very quietly lifts all of life's mistakes off of Kyle. Most missed it. It's also important to note that the tone of the movie and the book are so completely different, they are almost unrecognizable. Kyle, in the book (his apparent own words), somewhat enjoyed the hunt. Somewhat is my kind word, for loved. His battle with the act of killing wasn't nearly what it appeared and if you watch the movie closely, it really wasn't a battle. One scene, does not make a humanitarian out of a man. That being said, in the world of them or us, let's always choose them. I would too. So not judging a man in battle doing what he had to do, but I am judging one enjoying it. Speak to anyone who has been in battle and you steer clear of the ones who come back and revel in it. I view it as horrifying as grown men who speak of high school as their greatest years. I assume, a PTSD of a different sort.

The biggest issue I had with the film, as a film, was that it had no substance and was littered with war movie cliches. Don't mention future plan or else you die. Don't mention that god has a higher purpose for you or else you die. Also, very important, when a friend dies, show no emotion, but then quick cut to you being a stellar father and husband. It's all been done before and much better. In fact, it's been done better in films Eastwood was on the other side of the camera.  By the time the credits roll and the real life footage kicks in (a scene that overwhelmed many vet), any normal person is disgusted with the propaganda they've sat through, but still appreciates what this man did in "defense" of his country. The lies, the exaggerations (not his kill list, but the circumstances) and the picture of what he became, are all a little too much for us who crave truth in biopics. The film fails in two plus hours to do what The Hurt Locker did in one magical final scene. For a movie that claims to have been about a serious problem in America, it never captured the essence of that problem, because that would have involved knocking a "Legend" of his pedestal and we don't like when that happens.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Why do people who have little or no constraints, fill their days, weeks and months with chores they neither have to, nor want to do? Why is it that they seem to find ways to turn every bad thing for others into a burden for them. It's amazing to me, when I read, see or hear people's complaints. Even more so when they don't realize I've heard them. Freedom comes in many varieties, but the freedom to choose being misery over happiness has always amazed me. I can't remember a day where there wasn't at least one person who didn't choose to do something that irritated them, for no other reason than to be able to complain about it. Is that living?

I've been in a bad situation for most of the past decade and despite my complaining about sleep and occasionally about my pain, most people think my one gripe is with other people's opinions. It's actually quite the opposite, I love hearing other's opinions, but I merely ask they be able to explain them. Most people can't, because they are bound by ignorance. They've chose a stance, based only on what they've heard others say and while they choose not to research things themselves, briefly believing they've gained some time for themselves, they actually spend more time defending, proactively their decision to stay, well stupid.

The people above are the majority, but imagine shutting out friends or only seeing them at parties or events, because you've created this false world, where you're needed somewhere. Imagine if every second spent in this locked up location, was merely to satisfy some pretend job you had? Feigning illness, injury and mental trauma every time you're asked to do something social, because you were too proud to listen to those who cared, but now find solace in the arms, both physically and figuratively of someone who doesn't know or understand your situation, because they came along so far after, they know nothing of your selfish behavior. But then, imagine your behavior grew with everyone who has known you for years, but you shield this child and nurture him, so he never sees the true you? Imagine that cage and the walls closing in, because you've created a persona that is a lie. I can't imagine how suffocating that must me.